Live at The Button Factory, Dublin
16 January 2019
Adrianne Lenker would love to be the type of folk singer who tells stories. She tells us this from the Button Factory stage as she shyly giggles into her tea and awkwardly tries to interact with a near-capacity crowd.
The thing is, Lenker is teeming with stories. Tonight’s set is full of deep-seated vignettes of love and trauma, each wrapped in slow, twisting melodies that unfurl in her ever so sweet and muted voice.
The Big Thief frontwoman and chief songwriter opens with Angels, one of the tracks from her second EP with her Big Thief cohort Buck Meek. “Sometimes it feels, like nobody’s listening,” she sings. She need not worry. Hushed silence greets each song as Lenker – alone with the acoustic guitar she’s had since she was 14 – fingerpicks her way through her set.
The intimacy of the music is matched by the stage setting. With a large plant to her right and a lampshade to her left, we could be in Lenker’s living room as tender love songs such as 10 Miles quietly wash over the audience.
Most of tonight’s set stems from her recently released second solo album, abysskiss, a cool and sparsely recorded collection.
Her live show is in keeping with that record’s stripped-back aesthetic. Her warm and ever-so-slightly jaunty 2014 debut, Hours Were The Birds, doesn’t get a look in tonight. But she does delve into her first recordings, airing Kerina, from her 2013 A-Sides EP with Meek.
To the delight of much of the audience there are also three songs from Big Thief, the band she formed with Meek after her initial solo forays. Orange, Lorraine and Spud Infinity, a new track that the band began playing live last year, fit with the warm intimacy of songs such as Terminal Paradise.
It’s in such moments that Lenker’s talent truly shines. Devoid of Meek’s guitar and the band’s input, the fragility of her songwriting, the beauty of her melodies and the subtle power of her delicate vocal come to the fore.
There are folk songs here that draw on Bob Dylan and in Symbol there are melodies that evoke Thom Yorke and Radiohead. But there’s something unique there too. It’s in how Lenker sees the world, dreaming aloud at its twisted beauty.