With an opportunity to sit in the beautifully designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, with a twenty eight piece orchestra, a mandolin, and percussionist, my friend Erika and I was transferred into the world of Joanna Newsom. The night was filled with the beautiful, breathtaking music from the harpist, avant-garde folk stylings of Joanna. The night began with the orchestra backing her to the 2005 Y's record. The record is beautiful and haunting. Almost stepping into what it might have been to live in medieval times. I love the record because of a lot of reasons. The music is beautiful, how could it not when you have an orchestral arrangement by Van Dyke Parks (think Brian Wilson's Smile and Pet Sounds) and recorded and produced by Jim O'Rourke (Sonic Youth, Wilco) and Steve Albini (master behind Nirvana's In Utero and The Pixie's Surfer Rosa). We were treated to the record from beginning to end, only to take breaks in between tracks to sip water and thank the audience for being there. The music was gorgeous and very much like the album, the only new additions were from the mandolin/banjo player and well versed percussionist.
The second half was an array of songs from her first full length The Milk-Eyed Mendor. What I loved about these songs is that she totally rearranged and added depth and scope to the already established songs. The songs were given perspectives and with the sound as it is in this concert hall it was a breath of fresh air and a new sense of how one can approach her songs. She is quirky little lady, you can sense that she knows what she wants and has a great personality to back it up. What I loved about the night was the use of instruments that colored and envisioned the evening. I keep thinking about the percussionist who had no boundaries around his instruments. There was no snare drum or drum sticks but a bass drum that was used like a rock bass drum (hence with pedal) but more often used with mallets or with his hands. No part of the drum was off limits as he knew how to use the head to vary sounds. The mandolin player would add his breath of knowledge and challenge the orchestra with what he could add to the beautiful full sound.
The only critique of the night was that I wanted it louder...not 'turn it to eleven' sound but I didn't think it needed the dainty undertones as it was awarded by the sound engineer. Other than that I was amazed by the work of Joanna Newsom herself. Her voice has matured with the time she has played and her skills on the harp is magnificent. I don't have a lot of background on the harp but it was lovely to be a part of.
The night was magnificent from beginning to end. I had a wonderful evening with a wonderful friend. We both had fancy new dresses on and cute new boots. I can't say enough of what a lovely evening I had with some of the most intriguing scope of sound i have heard in quite some time. One of my favorite songs is entitled Peach, Plum, Pear from her fist full length. You can see a past live show below. Enjoy!