Joanna Newsom @ The Tivoli

Joanna Newsom

I think my favourite description of Joanna Newsom (maybe from Mess+Noise, maybe from Drowned In Sound, maybe somewhere else, I can’t exactly remember) described her as “singing like a recently smacked child”.  It’s a description that always brings a wry smile as I’ve always thought there is an element of truth in the description and it’s been the main sticking point that stops me really loving her songs; the arrangements are glorious but her voice is very much an acquired taste.

However, it was very much evident straight from the start that voice has changed a lot in the last few years’ it’s undeniably more mature sounding and she sounds a lot more like the teenage Kate Bush when she sings.  There’s still the fragility and emotion but it feels more mellow and restrained, without that slightly awkward timbre.

Tonight’s set is made up almost entirely of new songs from her forthcoming third album, and a triple album none the less, ‘Have One On Me‘.  Whereas this so often a recipe for disaster for so many artists, with crowds baying for the ‘hits’ to be played, tonight it makes it into a much more special event.  The audience is so captivated that you could hear a pin drop during the songs, something that’s more than noticeable every time I take a photo and am more than aware of with the sound of the shutter opening and closing.

The set list from the evening (from a Live Journal review) was:

  1. Jack Rabbits
  2. Bridges and Balloons
  3. Have one on me
  4. Ribbon bows
  5. In California
  6. Easy
  7. Inflammatory Writ
  8. Soft as chalk
  9. Autumn
  10. Emily
  11. On a good day/81
  12. Esme            
  13. Colleen          
  14. Sadie

Throughout the show she kept apologising for being jet-lagged and not playing well but it was a completely enthralling performance and if she was making mistakes it didn’t show or detract in anyway from the songs, which were just exquisite.  Based on tonight’s show, the album should easily be amongst the best released during the year when the movers and shakers come up with their Best of 2010 lists in December.  A taster of the album has just been released in the form of the song ’81, with the album due out on 23 February. 


I managed to arrive after she had started and in finding that it was all seated and with no photo pit, ended up photographing crouched in the aisle.  It was nowhere near the best vantage point, with her microphone being across her face at all times but the best I could do given the time restrictions.  Given the position of the microphone, I’m not sure where the best position would have been; maybe from the right hand balcony.

Joanna Newsom

A few more photos on Flickr (although obviously they all look pretty much the same). 

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