Saturday, 9 February 2019

GIG REVIEW/: Laura Veirs - St.Paul's Church, Birmingham, Friday 8th February 2019

On an evening where options were aplenty, sometimes it is worth taking a step into lesser known territory to get your live music fix. Despite Laura Veirs being a relatively successful recording artist for a number of years, our musical paths barely crossed. There was some impetus via her 2017 collaboration with Kd Lang and Neko Case in the Case/Lang/Veirs project, and further advancement in finally getting round to listening to last year’s THE LOOKOUT album, which was lavishly savoured upon discovery. So on an evening when Jarrod Dickenson played Moseley and the Transatlantic Sessions rode into town for their annual staging at the Symphony Hall, it was a singer-songwriter from Portland Oregon who won the day with the ticket purchase.

The Laura Veirs show was the mid-priced event of the trio and held at St. Paul’s Church in the Jewellery Quarter area of Birmingham city centre. The operation behind Moseley Folk Festival promoted the gig and twinned this evening’s presentation with one featuring John Smith the day before. A decent turnout supported the show, some maybe curious to experience how these church gigs pan out.

For this UK tour, Laura is supported by her friend Sam Amidon; a musician originally from Vermont, but now based in London. Sam opened the show with a short set that progressed significantly during its duration. Like many gigs, though especially in the makeshift surroundings of a church, a little tweaking to the sound is required, likely by both the sound team and the ears of the listener. Once adjustments were made, some of the latter songs sounded quite decent especially when the banjo was strummed and the feeling slipped into old time traditional mode from the rural areas of the south.

We had our first glimpse of Laura when Sam invited her to join him on a couple of songs at the end of his set. In true comradery, the invitation was reciprocated and Sam played fiddle on a couple of tunes at the end of the main set.

An immediate observation from seeing Laura Veirs live is the obvious pedigree that oozes from her performing space. This exists in the triumvirate of vocals, guitar playing and song selection, with the frequent effect of transfixing an audience into a concentrated zonal state.

The subdued lighting may not have been great for pictures, but bathed in rays of candlelight added to the ambience to match the acoustics that were very much to Laura’s liking. The temptation to step off mic for a song may have been tempting, but sadly, it did not materialise. This is a common feature of many church gigs attended, although at the mercy of the artist’s comfort feelings.

While not being too familiar with many of Laura Veirs’ songs, there were still some standouts, whether recognising them from the latest album or the introduction provided on the evening. ‘Margaret Sands’ in the opening spot and ‘Mountains of the Moon’ in the encore were the pick from THE LOOKOUT, although ironically both originating far from Laura’s pen. Sadly, my personal favourite ‘Seven Falls” did not make the set list for this show, but its appeal is undiminished.

Another assertion from attending this show was how the stripped back sound from Laura solely on acoustic guitar was different when compared to the added electric and pedal steel that featured on the album. Both versions have merit, but I would just slightly err on the record content.

Outside the new record, ‘Song for Judee’ (off the Case/Lang/Veirs album), ‘Sun Song’, ‘Carol Kaye’ and a cover of the Daniel Johnston song ‘True Love Will Find You in the End’ proved the songs that lingered in the post-gig memory longer. However, this first real dip into the music of Laura Veirs was more about the essence than the detail.

One noted point from this show was the 63 minute set time that Laura played. Admittedly, the break had been seemingly extended, and there is no idea whether a curfew applied, but in my book, this just crawled into the credit column when relating set time to gig cost. It is still an intriguing concept that the duration of live music often enters into untimed territory as far as the main attraction is concerned. While this rarely causes a problem, it is out of sync with many other forms of live artistic entertainment.

Set times aside, this delve into the musical world of Laura Veirs has been a worthwhile venture. THE LOOKOUT remains a fine album to discover better late than never, and any future shows in the area are likely to be sought out. The beauty of music is that not a single one of us has exhausted the endless potential out there.