Monday, September 12, 2016

Joanna Newsom at The Buckhead Theater, Atlanta, September 11, 2016

Yesterday, Monday, was officially Day Five of our five-day show marathon, but the killer combo of a day job and a show that night by The Album Leaf meant we didn't have time to say much about Sunday night's Joanna Newsom show, other than to share a few pics and post the obligatory video.  

Let us make our amends.  We arrived at The Buckhead Theater a full 15 minutes before the doors opened, but the line to get in already snaked way down Roswell Road to near it's intersection with Peachtree. When we finally got inside, we walked straight passed the bar to the stage (no time for beer), but were still three standing rows back from the stage.  Fortunately, our sight-lines were still pretty good.

The show started with a set by husky-voiced, Portland-based singer-songwriter Alela Diane, who we've seen before at The Crystal Ballroom in Portland during MFNW (RIP) in 2011 and in Seattle at Bumbershoot in 2012.   We don't think too many other people in the room that night had seen Alela twice before.

Lynn Jacobson covered the Bumbershoot set for The Seattle Times, noting, "Alone with her guitar, she stood stock-still in a spotlight, singing (and occasionally whistling) melancholy tunes rife with romantic images of roses and thorns, darkness and wine. She introduced a new song, About Farewell, which she called 'pretty [expletive] sad.' And it was."  She delivered about the same on Sunday night, too (which is a good thing).

There was about a 40-, 45-minute break between sets, and the crowded stagefront got even more crowded still with people pushing to get closer.  That usual circumference around ourselves that most people consider "personal space" was reduced to mere centimeters, and every time we tried to move our arms to check our phone or whatever, we wound up rubbing against the person or persons next to us, as they were also doing to us.  Several young women around us had a hand on their opposite shoulder so that their arm protected their breasts from brushing up against strangers.  I think we all felt a sense of relief when the house lights finally dimmed and Joanna Newsom took the stage.

Joanna Newson "only" has four albums out, but each one is so long and complex, and each song so intricate and involved, that her body of work seems of staggering volume.  Which is to say, to be honest, I only know a few of her songs, but she played everything that I know, including Sapokanikan and Divers, from the new album, Divers.

Newsom sang using a portable microphone, freeing her up to frequently move back and forth from her trademark harp to piano, sometimes while still singing during the same song.  She was back by a drummer and three multi-instrumentalists, who played a wide variety of stringed instruments and recorders, switching frequently during the course of a song.

So what else happened?  She covered a Judy Collins song (Albatross), Alela Diane came on stage and accompanied her with backing vocals on the last couple of songs, members of the audience yelled "I love you" during each and every break between songs and tried to engage her in one-on-one conversations from the orchestra pit, someone told her "I like turtles," and someone else threw her a rose (which she impressively caught one-handed). 

Newsom performed the first song of her encore alone and accompanied (the aforementioned Albatross) and the rest of the band joined her for the second song.  Even though the evening felt like a marathon of selections from her impressive oeuvre, the show started early enough that we were back home by 11:00 pm, which is nice on a Sunday night.

One more night to go for our our five-night run.  The end is in sight. 

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