Marissa Nadler at Hoxton Bar and KitchenSupport: Mary Lattimore
December 6, 2016 at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen
This year’s seventh album, Strangers, by Massachusetts born and raised Marissa Nadler fleshed out her mournful gothic folk for a fuller sound and even incorporated some beats aided by producer Randall Dunn (Black Mountain, Earth, Sunn O))))). But if that was a surprise then supporting Swedish melodic Doomsters Ghost on their North American tour tops the ‘really?’ list even further as unlikely pairings. But possessing a voice which manages to simultaneously be beautifully uplifting and deeply mournful is indeed a rare talent. A voice which can lure converts and jaundiced dreamers happily over a windswept high cliff onto sharp jagged rocks to no doubt lead to an almost certain death. So, initially bewildering contrasts shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.
But first the solitaire figure of Mary Latecomer with her harp and loops provides support. It sets the tone delivering, at times, some beautiful moments which the audience shows respect with hushed silence during each piece. Even the bar closes while Mary provides a film/T.V. soundtrack vibe in waiting.
Marissa Nadler begins with a solo opening before her newly formed band emerges. It is remarkably only their fourth gig together featuring Micky Burgess on lead guitar and steel, Earth’s Don Mcgreevy on bass and Steve Nistor on drums, they belie any signs of newbies and create rootsy versions of ‘Strangers’ with wonderful evocative slide guitar, a stripped back re-working of Neil Young’s ‘Cortez the Killer’ giving it similar idiosyncratic flourishes as The Cowboy Junkies did with their version of ‘Powderfinger’, and the beautifully sorrowful ‘Katie I know’ are particular highlights. Also, crucially, the band provide musical interludes when Marissa tunes up so avoids long awkward silences and instead maintains atmospheric momentum.
While Marissa has admitted to suffering from severe stage fright in the past she has overcome this potential vocational hazard by stubbornly and admirably persevering to play live. Her presence on stage is a contrasting mix of fragile vulnerability and calm confidence. Add in the main themes of love and pain supplemented by her immaculate ghostly floating angelic voice culminate to expose a raw naked openness, especially when she sings ‘“I was like putty in your hands’’ from ‘Divers of the dust.’ She returns solo for the last song to offer a fitting tribute to her musical hero and legend Leonard Cohen’s recent departure with a rendition of ‘Famous blue raincoat.’
After an initial occasional mind wandering first quarter, Marissa Nadler and band pull you in to enhance into being seductively engaging, and profoundly compelling over an hour and a half set. It would be rather wonderful if Marissa could hang onto this band to explore further their possibilities as a unit in the studio and on further tours.