May 22nd, 2008 - Bowery Ballroom, NY - Laura Veirs w/ Liam Finn
Images and review by Dominck Mastrangelo
Last Thursday was the fourth time I've seen Laura Veirs live. In four years she's gone from supporting singer-songwriters such as John Vanderslice to headlining venues like the Bowery Ballroom. On this particular Thursday and on this particular tour, Veirs was/is solo. Her backing band "The Saltbreakers" or "the bearded men" as Veirs referred to them were sitting this one out. A solo Veirs performance is so much different than one with her band. Gone are the accessorized suits and dresses and the full band treatment that give such shape to her lush and literate songs painted in aqua and sea-foam green.
A sparse set-up with just an acoustic guitar and a banjo, an appreciative Veirs proved that even solo she could layer and add depth to her songs. On the set opener "Pink Light" from last year's excellent Saltbreakers Veirs layered loops of guitar and vocals building the song up as she repeated the songs final line "In the fading of the constellations, I am growing strong" over the wall of sound. And if one were to shut their eyes, surely they would have thought at least two, maybe three, other folks were on stage with her.
Veirs posts best of tour lists on her site and the packed Bowery crowd made the list early for their enthusiastic applause following her songs. The crowd then proved worthy backup singers on "Rialto" without any coaxing from Veirs as she sang "Now they're standing on the beach. In a wild colored wind..." and the crowd responding "Standing on the beach" and "Wild colored wind" after the respective lines. It's one of those serendipitous moments where you know the crowd and the artist are feeding off each other.
Mixed in among the beautiful "Magnetized" and "Nightingale," Veirs also played a couple songs off her tour-only e.p., Two Beer Veirs - a cover of Elizabeth Cotten's "Freight Train" and "Spike Drive Blues" by Mississippi John Hurt.
The best moments, however, were the two most unexpected. Halfway through the set Veirs used her drum machine and the loop pedal to produce a not so subliminal message. "Let's see if you catch it," she said as she began chanting "O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma." As the crowd laughed and clapped she sang the praises of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee - "Isn't he handsome? Isn't he intelligent?" - over the loop.
And when she performs solo certain songs get left off the setlist. One of those is "Galaxies" from 2005's Year of Meteors. But for the encore Veirs brought out opener Liam Finn (who's drumming during his set was alarming in its ferociousness) and Eliza-Jane Barnes who accompanied Finn during his set. The version of Galaxies they produced was a stunning, in-your-face contrast to the fairly laid back set that had come before, yet was everything you could want in a crowd-pleasing encore and the perfect way to end the show.
For more images from this show and all the shows we have covered visit our flickr page.