Marissa Nadler @ The Church On York; Los Angeles, CA
Oh man, has it been EIGHT YEARS since I last saw Marissa Nadler perform live? I think it has.
On that night in late October of 2005 she took the stage at Tonic (RIP) in support of the Flaherty/Corsano duo and Jackie-O Motherfucker. My little review — my immediate reaction to hearing her music for the first time — wasn’t all that compelling.
The first musician was named Marissa Nadler, she sings in a very high and pretty voice, acoustic songs with unique picking patterns. She seemed quite anal retentive or OCD about her sound. After every song she would say “check” and then ask the soundboard operator to either pull the reverb or crank it. Same with the high end on her guitar. Her songs were alright, but the long lulls between songs took away from her set.
Oh, how time can change ones perceptions. I now consider her to be easily one of my top five modern female songwriters, right up there with Nina Nastasia battling for the #1 spot. It took hearing Songs III: Bird On The Water a couple years after that Tonic gig to finally grasp the beauty and genius of her music. Why I’ve waited so long to see her in a live setting again…I haven’t the slightest idea.
So there she was last night on stage at The Church On York, accompanied by two incredible musicians (on cello and violin, the ladies’ names escape me at the moment) performing songs from her new album July, which was released earlier this month by Sacred Bones. That label is killing it, by the way. They put out 5 records that landed on my Top 100 last year. The songs from July sounded remarkable last night. “1923” and “Dead City Emily” stood out as especially enchanting. Last night — unlike that performance back in the fall of 2005 — the quiet moments between songs were replaced by witty banter and little side comments. Like about how “Drive” was played on Car Talk recently. I think — after a beat — her remark was something like a perfectly timed “…I’ll take it,” or “So there’s that.” Silly little remarks are so much better than awkward silence. Sorry. Do I sound like I’m gushing too much? Maybe I should stop.
And then, as if Nadler swooped down off the church’s stage, dove into my brain and picked it to find out what I wanted to hear, she announced that she was closing her set with “Fifty Five Falls.” Not only was that the first song of hers I ever heard, it’s STILL my favorite to this day. It was as fitting a conclusion to her set as I could imagine. When she returned to the stage for an encore, she announced she’d be performing a kind-of mash-up between Bruce Springsteen (meh) and Townes Van Zandt (YES!). As she book-ended “Tecumseh Valley” with verses from “I’m On Fire,” I might have actually felt my jaw hit the floor. So amazing. I know covering Townes is becoming a bit de rigueur for folk artists, but as far as I’m concerned she should continue covering him. “Waitin’ Around To Die” and “Our Mother The Mountain” seem like they’d fit her style well.
I don’t remember the exact setlist, but it included “Drive [MP3],” “1923,” “We Are Coming Back,” “Dead City Emily,” “I’ve Got Your Name,” “Holiday In,” “Desire,” “Fifty Five Falls” and “I’m On Fire” / “Tecumseh Valley”.
After the set I picked up a copy of July from her merch table. And, of course, while she was counting out my change I clumsily fumbled my record and my money while telling her how great she is. Now who’s the dreadfully shy one, huh!?
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