By Live4ever - Posted on 10 Feb 2017 at 8:00am
Big Thief live in Bristol (Jessica Bartolini for Live4ever)
They say ignorance is bliss. Turns out ‘they’ might be right, just for all the wrong reasons.
As Big Thief take to the stage it dawns on this writer: he knows absolutely nothing about them – except one solitary thing. The ‘thing’? Their song, Paul. Paul alone is reason enough to travel anywhere. Its absolute raw intensity is breathtaking.
Now what? Maybe kill time until they play Paul? No, Big Thief are not here to kill time, or just play. They are here to share an experience with like-minded, passionate people.
Adrianne Lenker‘s impassioned and aching vocals are haunting. Filling this small, smelly basement with a sense of utter heartbreak and foreboding. The audience and the band hang on her every movement, following her every gesture and nuance. She sings songs with sincerity; there’s no irony or melodrama. Just brutal, gut-wrenching honesty, or nothing at all.
In fact, they seem less like songs, more like painful moments captured and now unbottled. Songs like Real Love make you wonderfully uncomfortable. The tension in them is palpable and deliciously tingly.
Each song feels like pressure released from the system. And with each song, the band further settle into their stride, eventually peeking out from behind the curtain to engage directly with the audience. For Big Thief this somehow felt far more personal and risky; like they were afraid of breaking the spell they’d spent so much time casting.
So even these moments were guarded, personal and delicate. Which only made them more endearing and enjoyable to watch.
They eventually played Paul, and it was wonderful. What, on its own, seems like a towering ode to something lost or unsaid, suddenly seems just a small part of a much bigger story. When placed within the larger tapestry to which it belongs, it suddenly makes sense. It’s still just as beautiful, only now it has added depth and meaning.
Big Thief take music very seriously and make very serious music. Which could make them sound awful and joyless, like that terrible stereotype of what jazz has become, where it’s unlistenable music made for unimaginably horrible people who seem to hate music. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The truth is, like jazz, Big Thief are fascinating, passionate and captivating. Like Miles Davis or Thelonius Monk (who, it must be said, they sound absolutely nothing like), they make music that challenges the listener. Challenges them to listen genuinely, and hear what’s being said and what’s being left unsaid.
There is as much enjoyment and brilliance in the spaces as there is in the moments. When Lenker steps away from the mic, it’s not because there are no more words – they are there, she just doesn’t need to say them because she knows you know.
Tonight is an extraordinary thing. It’s a surprise, on every level, we’re guilty of knowing nothing but glad for it. If only finding out your wrong always felt this good.
Read more: http://www.live4ever.uk.com/2017/02/live-review-big-thief-soup-kitchen-manchester/#ixzz4ZKSNaVTo
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