Concert Review: Anna Mieke @ Jammin Java (2/5/23)

Anna Mieke (Photo Credit: Celina Martins)
Anna Mieke (Photo Credit: Celina Martins)

“Has anyone been to Ireland? My favorite county is Kerry. Very inspirational for dark songs.” – Anna Mieke

Anna Mieke stopped by Jammin Java on Sunday, February 5th, and gave the curious crowd (some were also there to see Peter Mulvey, who opened this show) a fine evening of darkly powerful Irish alternative folk songs.

Accompanying her on stage was Matthew Jacobson (drums) and Ryan Hargadon (keyboards), who also busted out the saxophone on occasion. In addition to vocal duties, Anna played the guitar.

I’m not sure the title of her opening song, but it set the mood for the rest of the show in a dramatic way. They entered the stage in darkness, only three low red lights casting a glow off the performers faces. It was a cool effect, and led the audience into a certain haunting melancholy (presumably) during the eight or so songs they performed. If you had thought the dark and the red was only an effect for the first song, you would’ve been wrong. They were committed to preserving this mood, as the darkness lingered the entire set, and was something I had never witnessed before. The other element of their stage presence was a series of images and videos displayed on the front of the bass drum. The images I saw were of lakes, rolling surf, planets, trees and other nature themes.

Anna is from Wicklow, Ireland, and also lived for a time as a child in New Zealand. Her second album, Theatre (via Nettwerk), came out last November, and they played a good number of her new songs. The Irish Times recently awarded her the ‘Best Irish Solo Act’, while Theatre earned a nod for the 2022 Album of the Year at Ireland’s Choice Awards.

Anna chatted with the Java crowd a little, radiating the red light like a reveler holding a flashlight to tell a scary story. She let us know that, “My songs are about places I’ve been or lived in.”

One of those places was Lausanne, France, were she lived for a ‘hot summer’, and was the inspiration for “Twin”.

“Coralline” was among my favorite songs they performed. It had whispers of traditional Irish folk music, as if we were heading out on an epic adventure with Hobbits and elves. Midway through there is an incredible transitional instrumental bridge (the song is 8 minutes long!) that never transitions back to lyrics, and the ending gave Ryan the chance to bring forth the saxophone. 

Next came “Warped Window”, a song from her first album Idle Mind and was featured on the TV Show Normal People. She let us in on the true meaning of the song, and not how it was portrayed in the TV show. It was used during a love scene, but according to Anna the song is actually about ‘haunted ghosts, death and decay’.

At one point, Matthew’s drumsticks were put to work on a set of chimes hanging over the drum set. Complemented by wind sounds and stormy images on the bass drum.

She ended the evening with “Seraphim”, which was the most upbeat song (comparatively), and had been the first single from Theatre. It speaks to her time staying in Finland, in an old barn. The simple steady pluck of the guitar and the poetic lyrics like “To be seen not heard is a worrying thing” contributed to the grace of the song. A good way to end the set.

Although the setlist was relatively short for a headliner, most of her songs clock in at well over five minutes, so you got the full weight of these stories of the places she’s been or lived. Her voice was soothingly placid, peaceful almost, and because you could see little of the performers, it was something you focused on to the exclusion of most things one notices at a concert.

Give Anna Mieke a listen and her new album, Theatre, and find out what Ireland already knows!


  1. (unknown)
  2. For a Time
  3. Twin
  4. Coralline
  5. Warped Window
  6. (unknown)
  7. Go Away From My Window 
  8. Seraphim 

Author: Jeremy Bailey

Writer and editor living in Washington, D.C.

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