The Weather Station @ Hare and Hounds, 31 January 2018

Red River Dialect are the support act for The Weather Station’s UK tour and having recently signed to the same US label, Paradise of Bachelors, this is an obvious pairing especially as the band have a new album to promote too.

Red River Dialect are a collective of six musicians based around the song writing and vocal lead of David Morris. Their set is a quaint selection of well-crafted folk songs that use an intricate interplay between instruments underpinned by a solid bassline and some exquisitely sensitive drumming. An obvious comparison would be with The Waterboys predominantly because of the use of violin, however, there is a more laid-back ease to Red River Dialect and less confrontational vocal style to make the contrast truly resonate. The band certainly hold the audience’s attention and receive welcome applause at the end of their set which is well-timed with a quick phone check.

The Weather Station is the project of Tamara Lindeman, a Toronto based folk singer-songwriter, which has grown and incorporated another three musicians and whose latest album has received superb reviews across the board. Considering how much positive press the album has gotten, I am surprised at the low ticket price and that it is in Venue 2, yet, it only makes the gig more intimate which is never a bad thing.

It’s tricky to make a grand entrance on to the low stage, but I can’t imagine The Weather Station making a fuss anyhow, and as the band slope on and pick up their instruments, silence descends. Personal Eclipse is the chosen opener from the 2015 album Loyalty, which sets the scene for what is to come over the next hour and a half or so. Lindeman’s vocals are suited to a small venue as she draws you in to her introverted world, not because they lack power quite the opposite as it is her ability to haunt you in an unassuming manner that is her strength.

Throughout the first song, she tends to stare up to the right, shrouded in simple light, delivering her eloquent, descriptive lyrics as if in her own world whilst delicately finger picking the guitar.  The rest of the band create musical space around Tamara, sensitively enhancing the song allowing the words and melody to carry it along.

Prior to Kept It All To Myself, Lindeman announces that she has had a cold and therefore is unable to sing as much as she’d like, considering this is five songs in and I’d been making notes on how superb her vocals are, I can’t imagine what she would be capable of in full health.  For example, Free, taken from the latest album, illustrates her proficiency at flitting between qualities of fragility for the upper register and a robust richness to the lower notes. The set is a compilation of well-selected tracks from the back catalogue, however, weighted towards the most recent album which is a movement away from more traditional folk into electric inspired driving rhythms yet dodging the cheesy bullet.

A song such as I Kept It All To Myself demonstrates how Lindeman’s song writing skills ensure she produces a catchy number with a darkness that prevents it crossing that line. It isn’t purely the lyrical content and performance that create a mystical atmosphere, the perceptive drumming from Ian Kehoe produces a depth without being overwhelming whilst Will Kidman moves deftly between lap steel and guitar and Ben Whiteley holds a measured bass line and backing vocal, which were slightly off during You and I (On The Other Side Of The World) but it turned out to be a minor glitch.

As the evening progresses so does Tamara’s interaction with the audience, who have been reverently appreciative, at one point she asks what Birmingham is like and then explicitly questions her choice of question and certainly her tale of a basement room in a London hotel that results in a fit of giggles endears her even more to the already laudatory crowd. As she swaps her electric guitar for an acoustic, for just a couple of solo numbers, the respect she commands over the watchers is tremendous, complete silence until the final note of Came So Easy fades and then the applause fill the room.

The final song of the main set is Thirty, which can only be described as being ridiculously good and one that gains in greatness in a live environment and, furthermore, is very popular. After a fleeting moment to the side of the stage and a comedic story about hiding in a cupboard after a gig, the performance ends with the more subdued Tapes.

The Weather Station’s exploration of language is not complex yet lays bare emotions and sentiments in a painfully honest manner that is utterly encapsulating.  To supplement this exquisite use of words, is an arrangement of sophisticated, considered music that doesn’t detract from the lyrics but it’s unusual quirks enhance the auditory experience.  A few years ago, I was in the same room watching Angel Olsen with a similar sense of awe and wonderment, questioning why she was playing such a small venue and I can imagine the next time I go and see The Weather Station again it will be in a far less intimate setting, unfortunately for me but not for them. 

Reviewer: Toni Woodward

Photographs: Ian Dunn

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