Thursday, 31 May 2012

For the sake of having pieces in one place...

Here's a gig review I did at the tail-end of last year for local promoters Behind the Wall of Sleep of a beautiful gig by Sarabeth Tucek put on by Harvest Sun:

The crumbling, neo-classical St Brides is the perfect rainy-evening venue for a tiny Sarabeth Tucek, accompanied on guitar by the producer of her most recent album, Get Well Soon, Luther Russell. Most of her set is taken from this album with the odd tone change as she picks pieces from her first record, which display how much her song writing and her confidence in her own exquisite voice has come in the last five years. Opening on a heavier note, unlike the album, Tucek and Russell, launch straight into what has been one of the most commented on tracks from the album, “Wooden”:  an epic, consuming song which loses none of its Fleetwood Mac-esque power having been stripped of drum and synths live, but builds even better than on the record. Thankfully, live, her song choices play to the surprising strengths of this set up, making the most not only of her ability but also that of her accompanying guitarist.

These tracks, with the exception of quite a dull first encore taken from the first album, showcase not only the strength and range of a voice which on record, occasionally skirts the line of being “same-y” but also destroy any potential for Tucek’s new material to be shrugged off as middle-of-the road catharsis. Heavily influenced by the death of her father, one anticipates something a little more difficult to listen to with this album, but Tucek’s cool, almost dispassionate demeanour throughout her performance only adds to the genuine, brooding undercurrent flowing throughout the subtle, philosophical poetry of her songs. She remains completely impassive and unruffled as her voice swells, cracks and breaks around the walls of the imposing church on the impossibly beautiful, elegiac “Get Well Soon” and growls through the lower, more sombre phases in songs such as “The Fireman”. It is in this last song that the comparisons to Chan Marshall (Cat Power) and Karen Carpenter are most evident, especially given that when watching both women live you are made to feel there is, vocally, a lot more hiding beneath the surface, effortless lilt.

On her more pared down (but never placid) laments such as, “Things Left Behind” and “A View”, Tucek’s voice brings to mind Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star, Warm Inventions) but the reverberating guitar work found elsewhere on near-rockers such as personal favourite “State I Am In” and the amazingly powerful “Exit Ghost” drags her new material from shoe-gazing, dream-pop and more into strong, guitar-striking, Neil Young-inspired grunge folk. Tonight, I realised that it is her ability to balance these two elements of her voice and her music, at once vulnerable and huskily striking, that makes Sarabeth Tucek such an impressive vocalist and carries a sentiment which could be considered trite into something much more unaffectedly emotive, engaging and ethereal.

Lesley Ann Taker

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