Sunday, April 4, 2010

Newsom at the Vic

On Saturday night, I saw Joanna Newsom perform the final date of her recent tour at the Vic Theatre. I've always admired her music more than I've enjoyed it, but the ticket was free, and I couldn't say no. I was curious to see how she would sound live, and, well, a show's a show. So why not.

She sounded superb. The whole band, throughout the show, displayed the kind of virtuosic musicianship which makes individuals like myself feel violently ill. For one, Newsom really is a superb harpist, and watching her fingers move along the strings was mesmerizing. I can't imagine playing such an instrument with that amount of skill. It's overwhelming.

I was caught off guard with how personable the whole band were. Newsom herself proved witty and genuinely funny; I found myself bored during the songs, waiting for the bits in between. There were many, many laughs to be had with the on-stage banter, all of it spinning out of the actions of the audience. That is to say, I wasn't listening to a script, and their joy in playing was infections.

One point I'd like to suggest; on her next tour, Newsom should look at playing proper theatres, with seats. The majority of the audience was facing the stage and standing stone still. Throughout the show, mind you. Do to the social moors of pressure, I too spent the concert standing stone still, mostly out of fear for upsetting whatever balance was being striven for. I found it disconcerting, and exhausting. My legs were tired beyond all reckoning, despite the manageable length of the concert. And just a few days prior, I'd seen Spoon perform a two-hour concert, during which I was standing, but at least I was moving to the groove. Standing in one spot like that proved to be wearing. Plus, the audience was silent, which feels weird in a venue without seats. In a theatre, I'd presume silence to be the order of the day.

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