Kristin Hersh – National Concert Hall – Live Review – 23-07-17
Part of the Perspectives Series.
‘That was a new song,’ said Kristin as the final chords of Bright faded away. ‘My friends told me to stop playing new songs as everyone hates them’ she continued in all seriousness. After some laughs, some members of the audience did respond to argue the point but in truth, a good portion of the crowd wouldn’t have minded a greatest hits set. With a catalogue that dates back to her first Throwing Muses album in 1986, she has a huge amount to draw from. She also has some classic albums such as ‘Hips and Makers’ (1994), Red Heaven (1992) and University (1995) not to mention her 50 Foot Wave work. But Kristin was here to show off her latest album, the 24 track Wyatt at the Coyote Palace (2016) which is something of a return to form, despite not troubling the charts.
The album was released along with a book which contained images and text by Kristin. She has become quite innovate in recent years in new formats, as the CD continues its slow death. The book/ CD combination adds an extra element to the release. She also asks for contributions directly from her fans by means of sponsorship through the Strange Angels scheme. She has a small bunch of die hard fans, and they allow her to continue recording music. I suspect more than a few of them were in the audience of the Concert Hall last night.
It was a solo performance with Kristin singing and playing guitar. She broke up the songs by reading sections of her books to the audience. There were stories of her youth; getting high on cocaine and running along the side of a road, or trying to have a party on a boat, but forgetting to stop it sailing out to sea empty! She also told us of her belief that couches follow her from venue to venue. She was amazed to see that one particular couch could swim when it followed her overseas!
Kristin’s voice has changed over the years, and while it doesn’t have the purity of her early years, it certainly has a lot of character. She is also an impressive guitar player, and varied the mood easily, changing tempo and style. The new album featured heavily in the set, but the highlights included Mississippi Kite, Poor Wayfaring Stranger and The Cuckoo.
The encore included a song she claims not to have written herself, but largely transcribed from two drunk girls she saw in a bar one night. She scribbled down the text onto cocktail napkins, capturing most of what they said in ‘Cottonmouth’. The other song of the encore was one of her most beautiful in ‘Your Ghost’ although lacking the backing vocals of Michael Stipe. She came out once more for a final encore before leaving us for good at the early time of a quarter past nine. With a 75 minute set, the main difference was the lack of a support act, but it did feel a little early to emerge onto the streets. It was a lovely set by an artist that continues to find new ways to impress.