Having done two consecutive shows at the giant box that is the Heineken Music Hall, it was really nice to be back at Bitterzoet. A place where they serve their beer in a real glass and where, no matter how far back you stand, you could still throw that glass onto the stage, should you feel the urge.
And as much as I had loved Nick Cave two days earlier, with his over the top theatrical performance and impressive stage and light show, it was also nice to see a ‘back to basics’ style singer-song writer doing her stuff right there in front of you. No tricks, nothing too fancy - just good songs, well performed by some talented musicians.
In true working band style, the opening act would also be the violinist/pianist/backing vocalist for Laura later in the evening – Alex Guy. The best way I can describe Alex’s sound would be to say musically she is channeling an Andrew Bird sound, with looping violins and vocals building on each song as it progresses. Her voice would be closer to a slightly toned down Regina Spector. And I say both these things as someone who loves those sounds and thought she did a great job occupying the stage solo, keeping a relatively small crowd very happy and engaged.
Potentially the best opening act I have seen at a show so far this year.
Not long after that Laura took to the stage, accompanied by Alex and also a huge guy with a nice beard who would switch between guitar and bass guitar for the evening. And a drummer/percussionist who also seemed to play an assortment of smaller instruments throughout the show. Laura did a quick introduction while the band got ready and said that she was from Portland, Oregan.
Is anyone from Portland Oregon not in a band?
I have lost track of the amount of times I seem to have heard that line over the past few years. Does anyone have a regular job there? I have an image in my mind of some sort of music utopia and I am afraid if I go there I will be disappointed - like when people arrive in Sydney and see a big city with cars and sky scrapers instead of only kangaroos and a main street resembling Walkabout Creek from Crocodile Dundee.
Anyway, the opening song for the night would be Sun Song, which is also the opening song on her latest album Warp & Weft. And this would really set the tone for the whole show, with the set-list being dominated by songs from the new album despite having 8 other albums in her back catalogue.
This suited me just fine, as that’s the only album I have – purchased after I already had tickets to this show and based purely on strong recommendations from some friends.
But I have to say, much like The Mountain Goats a couple of weeks earlier, I really loved the show and have been liking the album more and more in the week since hearing so much of it live.
The two opening songs of ‘Sun Song’ and ‘Shape Shifter’ are two of the strongest songs on the new album and made for a great start to the show. July Flame, played mid set, probably got the largest response from the crowd and it was well deserved. Since the show I have found the song, from the album of the same name, and with Jim James of My Morning Jacket providing backing vocals this is fast becoming one of my most played songs.
With 9 out of the 12 songs from Warp & Weft being played I did feel a little unlucky not to hear Say Darlin’ Say, my favorite song from the new album. Given I couldn’t even find the song on YouTube I have decided to create my own video to spread the word on this song, as I think it is worth getting it out there!
The 3 song encore ended with a rocking version of That Alice, Laura’s tribute to jazz musician Alice Coltrane. It was loud and jumping, and a great way to end the show. Laura and the band had delivered a relaxed and intimate show, but also one that was nothing but professional.
As much as I enjoy a show like Nick Cave every now and then, this was the kind of show, in the kind of venue and at the kind of price I could happily sign up for every week of the year.