Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Martha Wainwright Live

On Sunday night I had the good fortune to catch Martha Wainwright perform live at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, MA. For those of you not familiar with the venue, when I had first heard that she was playing there I was somewhat surprised she would be stopping in such a small place. Come to find out, it’s one of her last dates before heading over to Europe and then Australia on tour, so I was rather lucky to be seeing her at all.

So just to prove that bloggers don’t know everything, when I first realized she was playing locally, I didn’t think much about it other than I was excited to see her. The week before the show I actually took a second to consider why she would be touring in support of an album three years old (her self-titled debut), spent a good minute doing some research, and realized that she had put out a new album, I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too, in June. Ummm, yea. Totally missed that one.

So, needless to say, I went to the show with absolutely no ear-time with the new songs (with the exception of two, Comin’ Tonight and So Many Friends, which she had been playing on tour as long ago as April, 2006 at the 9:30 club – listen to the latter below) but picked up the album after the show right then and there. Of course Martha wove in a few tracks from the debut amongst the new ones (including a few of my favorites – Factory, Ball & Chain and This Life), making the night not altogether unfamiliar.

If you haven’t heard the new album, Martha is definitely stretching her wings here. Where as her first offering very much revolved around Martha and orthodox instrumentation (typical guitar), the latest employs a much wider instrumental palette. There’s a lot more experimentation with what directions the songs take. Not to suggest that her first album was full of re-workings of one basic sound, but the new one proves that Martha is not resting on her laurels or her familial ties. With the wider range of instruments comes a wider range of textures as well. You’ll find a noticeable decrease in the acoustic feel here.

Of particular note is that you’ll find no Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole, Part 2 here, thankfully. As much as I enjoy the song and think its strength goes beyond the memorable chorus, I think the worst thing that she could have done would to have cast herself as a one-trick (swearing) pony. Also of interest are a Pink Floyd cover (See Emily Play) and a Eurythmics cover (the album closer, Love Is A Stranger).

Getting back to the show, seeing her live was a real treat. Martha has a great personality that comes alive in front of a crowd. Although she oozes sexuality, she's also got that tom-boy sense to her that let's you know she can stick up for herself (and probably protected her old brother Rufus in school at the bus stop). On the odd chance you'll be in Europe of Australia over the next few months, check her out.

Visit her website, her label Zoe Records, and become her friend on MySpace.

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