Joanna Newsom & Robin Pecknold Put Their Unnatural Talents On Display Last Night at the Moore"/>
Wednesday, August 4
Robin Pecknold seemed a little fidgety on stage last night, but, as always,>"/>
Robin Pecknold seemed a little fidgety on stage last night, but, as always, his set of songs was flawless and pitch-perfect; his vocals, also as always, were celestial and cathedral-huge. The nice thing about seeing Pecknold solo every once in a while rather than with the Fleet Foxes is that you can really see what a deft guitarist he is -- perfect voice, perfect guitar, perfect songwriting, he's a true triple-threat. That's not news to anyone, but he did play a crop of new songs last night; the standout being "Helplessness Blues," which starts out tensely before breaking into a broad and expansive chorus, in which Pecknold optimistically sings, "What good is it to sing helplessness blues?... If I had an orchard, I'd work 'til I was sore." He later thanked the audience, saying, "Thanks for being super attentive and sweet. It's the Seattle way." Pause. "Actually, it's not the Seattle way."
Perfection must have been the theme for the evening, because Newsom's set was similarly immaculate.
Newsom took the stage in a floral summer dress and a new haircut; her harp is bigger than she is. She opened with "'81," a tumbling waterfall of a song off her latest, Have One On Me. Newsom's vocals have many, many depths -- in one song alone, her voice is playful then seductive, throaty then lilting, plaintive then commanding. The harp gets a lot of hype, but her voice is also an incredible instrument. Newsom was then joined onstage by a whimsical five-piece band, starting with "Have One On Me." The band, for the most part, was unobtrusive, adding rather than subtracting from the song arrangements (for the most part -- I loved the banjo, the violins, the slide guitar, the trombone. The jaw harp and the recorder, not so much).
Newsom took to the grand piano for several songs -- the bluesy "Easy" (featuring the wonderfully romantic lyric, "Honey you please me, even in your sleep"), "Inflammatory Writ," the jaunty "Soft as Chalk," and, best of all, "Good Intentions Paving Company." On that song, Newsom's drummer played tambourine and harmonized with her vocals -- absolutely lovely. The crowd favorite was a harp song though -- the first notes of "Cosmia," off Newsom's second record, Ys., were greeted with a smattering of enthusiastic applause from the audience. But now that I think about it, so were most of the other songs in her set. Like I said -- she was fresh, convivial, and pretty near faultless. It's a little unnatural how talented she is.
Personal Bias: Zero. I've been a fan, but not a super-fan, of both Pecknold and Newsom for several years.
The Crowd: 20-somethings, 30-somethings, and a surprisingly large number of old dudes, all harp rock fans apparently.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Why's he wearing a sweater?" Robin was indeed wearing a wooly winter sweater. It was seriously hot and sweaty in the theater last night. He's lucky he's not a girl; all his makeup would have sweated off.
Random Notebook Dump: No, they didn't play "Picture" for us. Robin probably didn't want to have his hometown see him singing a Kid Rock song.
All these photos? All by the rockin' Laura Musselman.