Post by Misha
Big Thief was a few songs into their set at the Ebell Club in Highland Park when Adrianne Lenker stopped and looked out into the crowd.
“I’m sorry. How are you?”
A smattering of cheers rang out across the room, but she faltered a little.
“It always feels like a weird thing to ask, because there’s really such a limited response you can give. You know, about how you’re really feeling.”
This struck me as an illuminating principle of Lenker’s songwriting. There are long lists of questions, whole parts of every day life that exist only to fill the silence between songs. We ask and answer them because either we don’t know how to be real or else we don’t know how to be quiet.
The band understands this, and takes great care to make sure that nothing about their music is filler. It is all concerned with connection, respect, complexity.
The last time I saw Big Thief it was at the Troubadour. It was March and the election still smoldered fresh in everyone’s mind then, white hot anger licking the edge of every guitar riff. It was a beautiful and cathartic show. But the air is different now, and we need something different to breathe it. Wednesday night’s performance was bathed in soft pink and yellow light – rainbow sherbert and shadows. They played intimate, healing songs with the warmth of a blanket rather than the heat of a flame.
I remember in March, too, noting how little Lenker or her bandmates said between songs, and how it felt Truthful in a very profound way, as if to say,
Music is not the time to be polite. It’s the time to be free of the things that are designed to keep us from each other and ourselves, like gray cubicle partitions: “Thank you, I’m fine. No really.”
At the end of a night of both old and new favorites, Big Thief closed their show with an exquisitely tender performance of “Mary,” one of the most deeply personal and compassionate songs from their recent album.