Martha Wainwright @ Town Hall, 30th January, 2017

03-0351Coul Final Low Res

Birmingham is a hive of activity, from the building site that almost engulfs the Town Hall to the large protest outside about the current President of the United States. Inside the Town Hall it’s a little more peaceful and tranquil, as Martha Wainwright stops off on her current tour to promote “Goodnight City”.

Support is by Bernice, hailing from Toronto, they are very electronic, but more Massive Attack that Kraftwerk and they have songs that soothe the soul. However the dreadful PA tonight doesn’t do them any favours and so I’d advise having another listen with a decent sound system. Half an hour is gone too quickly and they really are worth further investigation.

There’s been much written about Martha Wainwright, specifically it often relates to her unique musical family heritage. Indeed brother Rufus has written the sublime “Francis” for her on this current album, whereas Martha has penned Franci”, also about her son.

Opening with “Round the Bend” Martha is wearing overalls (as seen in the video for the song) and indeed so do her backing band (Bernice who each show what great musician’s they are) more so as Martha tells us “we’ve only been playing together on this tour”. You’d never have guessed, they never miss a note and give the impressions they’ve been playing together for years.

She apologies for looking to the side of the stage a lot but “the kids were on skype earlier, but I think they’ve gone”. Martha tells us she went to the Mac yesterday to watch ‘Manchester by the Sea’, but she did take her life in her hands “by walking there from our hotel, the IBIS Budget”.

The set comprises songs from her whole career, but the most tender moments come towards the end, when an encore of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel” which does make one a little watery eyed, and just when you think you’ve held it back she sticks you right in the jaw with what could be the set highlight, “Proserpina”, her late Mother (Kate McGarrigle) last written song before she passed away. “Come home to mother, come home to momma now”. It’s breath-taking, with backing harmonies from Bernice which truly take your breath away.

This truly was an accomplished performance, simple lighting and stage, no gimmicks and none required. The only down point was the dreadful PA, which saw the sound lunge from side to side, and at times the right of the stage had no sound at all, before it crackled back into life. It was odd at first and irritating by the end of the night.

Martha came out to meet fans after the show, signing items (including her own customised T-shirts “I have to get rid of this stuff somehow”) and posing for photos. It’s at this point I can see close up the necklace she’s been wearing which confirms what I first thought to be a uterus on a chain is indeed true. It has the word ‘MINE’ written in the middle and after researching it appears was given to her on one of the first gigs of this tour by a fan.

Very genuine and engaging it was a wonderful night and Martha could be summed up by the other of her Mother’s songs played tonight, “I’m a Diamond”.


Review by Glenn Raybone

Photo courtesy of PR.

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