First impressions matter. They can be overcome but it’s best not to have to. When Jeremy Walmsley sang ‘you made me lose my cool’ in his first song I was thinking ‘what cool?’ and ‘does the world need another David Gray who thinks he’s Jeff Buckley or Morrissey?’ At this stage the answer would have been a resounding no, but then three songs in he found a vein of wry self-deprecation that served to counterpoint the over-blown arrangements. The humour in ‘If he Breaks Your Heart’ started to win me over, and a sweet-voiced cover of ‘That old Devil Called Love’ turned it around. Maybe still a little too OTT in the vocals at times but not bad. The woman next to me said he was ‘sweet’ and someone else mentioned Rufus Wainwright. Not sure I’d go that far, and I’d hope Walmsley doesn’t go that way, as I suspect the simple arrangements suit his words better.
Kristen Hersh is small, plainly dressed, and hardly moves on stage bar her guitar playing. Still you can’t take your eyes off her. That charisma is rare, and her cracked, whispery voice is a weapon that explodes into growls and screams as her guitar rumbles and twangs beneath. Although she plays songs from right across her career in Throwing muses, 50 foot Wave and solo and some traditional Appalachian folk ballads ‘about Jesus and killing your girlfriend’ there is a sense of consistency, a coherence that the best artists achieve. Her own lyrics of whiteness, oblivion and sleep match the Southern Gothic murder ballads, and her performance surpasses even the darkest in its intensity.
What I remember is the voice, far more powerful in this room than I expected, and the eyes, bright wild blue stare into the distance. What I feel like I dreamed, but know I didn’t, was the hypnotic swirl of ‘Your Ghost’, the strident rage of ‘Pearl’ the pleading ‘Slippershell.’
And when it’s over nobody speaks for a minute, still in the zone with her. It’s an effect I’ve seen a select handful of artists achieve, Cohen, Eitzel, that’s all.
Get It Loud In Libraries have put some excellent shows on, and have some interesting gigs lined up, but it will be hard for them to ever match a night like this.
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