The first thing I have to say about Joanna Newsom is that she is disarmingly cute and appears to be a fantastically sweet individual. The second thing I have to say is that when it comes to singing weird folk music and playing the harp, she’s pretty much tops. From the moment she sat down and started playing “Bridges and Balloons,” she had me completely won over.
Now, I’m not the biggest Joanna Newsom fan. So when I say things like “completely won over” and “Joanna Newsom’s concert was really enjoyable,” know that I really mean it. I can name maybe four of her songs (all of which she played — thanks, Joanna!) and can’t say that I really listen to her music with any regularity, but her show on Tuesday was great.
Joanna came to us with a well-rounded band, featuring one guitarist/multi-instrumentalist, two violinists, a horn player and a pretty creative drummer — all of whom she put to great use. We got great renditions of “Soft as Chalk,” “Have One on Me” and a few others off the new record, with Joanna ping-ponging back and forth between her harp and the piano. I’ve gotta say that my favorite track of the night was “Inflammatory Writ,” where she sounded like a country version of Kate Bush for a couple minutes. Great track and great performance.
Toward the end of her main set, Joanna called Robin Pecknold back out to do added percussion as the band played “Good Intentions Paving Company.” Now, if you can imagine being brought out to clap along to a song that doesn’t exactly inspire handclaps, you might be able to picture Robin’s face during all this. He wore a very polite “why am I here?” face the entire time… and at the end of the song, he found out. The band transitioned seamlessly into playing “Happy Birthday” and brought out a tiny cake with candles for Robin to blow out. I really wish I’d been close enough at that point to get a photo of Robin’s jaw dropping in surprise. He blew out the candles and Joanna just giggled in delight at the fun birthday trick they’d played on him.
More photos after the break