Concert Review: Laura Veirs @ Union Stage (5/27/18)

Laura Veirs
Laura Veirs and band @ Union Stage on 5/27/18

You can’t succeed if you don’t take risks!

Laura Veirs and her supporting band gave the Union Stage a night of contemplative, yet lively songs, mostly of the folk variety.

Laura’s vocals were complemented nicely by her band, and each song uncovered small moments of music. Small moments to hone in on one instrument (say Alex Guy on the viola? or Matt Berger on the drums?) or one harmony or even one chord (say from the bass guitarist Eli Moore?). She let her band ebb and flow, and together they put smiles on the faces of those sitting rapt at a Union Stage table.

In fact, Laura’s overarching theme for the evening was that each band member had to take a big risk during the set (at least one noticeable to the others; not necessarily the audience). Laura paused a couple of times to ask if they had taken their risk yet; they demurred, saying they were taking ‘small risks’ all the time but they would get to it. If that sort of pressure was any motivator on how well they performed and how the music soared, it worked well! Laura even wondered if her own risk should be to slide across a table à la Bruce Springsteen. I never did discern what their actual risks were, but I hope they felt good about them.

Laura started the evening with “Margaret Sands”, a dreamy folk song from her new album, The Lookout. Overall, they performed 20 songs, including nine from The Lookout. You know you have a great album on your hands when most of the best songs during the evening came from The Lookout.

“When It Grows Darkest” is the perfect example of the small moment, where the viola and Alex shined through. “Seven Falls”, amidst its country twang and haunting melody, shows our cruelty to each other and will ‘find a way to make you cry’.

There was no mistaking “Watch Fire”, with powerful syncopation it weaves in a peek at nature and the human condition. Many of the lyrics and song titles from The Lookout revolve around a lyrical journey with nature, as in ‘There’s no mistaking the wolf for the wind’ or from “Seven Falls”, ‘Up past the Seven Falls beyond the moody peak’.

More examples of nature from The Lookout include “Mountains of the Moon”, a deep cut cover from The Grateful Dead, and “The Meadow”.

Laura is from Portland, Oregon, and Alex and Eli are also from the Pacific Northwest (Matt is from LA), so maybe there’s a direct connection for them to nature, living so close to the beautiful Cascade Mountain range and the ocean.

Aside from the new songs, Laura did pepper in music from her earlier albums, including from her previous collaboration album with k.d. Lang and Neko Case (which they styled as case/lang/veirs), “Song for Judee”. Laura joked that k.d. originally wanted to call themselves the Camel Tones, but they went with simple instead.

She also started the current tour in Seattle, played a few West Coast shows, ‘skipped the middle’ (but hopes to get there soon), and ended the East Coast portion in Washington, DC before heading to Europe.

Coming back for three songs in the encore, Laura brought out Brenda Evans to help sing a cover of “Shake Sugaree” by the folk singer Elizabeth Cotten. Brenda is the great-granddaughter of Elizabeth, and Laura met her in the course of writing a book titled Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten. Yes, she sings and she writes!

Take a moment to get a copy of The Lookout, and then be on the lookout (okay, pun intended) for the next time Laura Veirs performs in DC!

Setlist
Margaret Sands
Everybody Needs You
Song for Judee (case/lang/veirs cover)
I Can See Your Tracks
When It Grows Darkest
Mountains of the Moon (Grateful Dead cover)
When You Give Your Heart
Wide-Eyed, Legless
The Lookout
Seven Falls
Spelunking
The Meadow
White Cherry
Watch Fire
Galaxies
July Flame
Pink Light

Encore
Shake Sugaree w/Brenda Evans (Elizabeth Cotten cover)
Heavy Pedals
True Love Will Find You in the End (Daniel Johnston cover)

Author: Jeremy Bailey

Writer and editor living in Washington, D.C.

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