Laura Veirs – Live

Academy 2, Manchester 19/01/2010
By Ellie O’Neill

In a performance which draws mainly from new album, July Flame, Laura Veirs lulls listeners along on a barely lit journey through songs of the seasons. A glow of contentment surrounds Veirs which is particularly visible during I Can See Your Tracks, and there is something near spiritual about the silence which descends on the eager crowd which is assisted by the haunting beauty of the viola player. The trance is only broken by comical conversational tit-bits from Veirs, among which are her observations on the joy of keeping chickens; apparently a new trend sweeping America.

The audience sways back and forth with a look of awe and attentiveness more commonly seen on children sitting still on the back porch of an old run down house at sunset, waiting for tales of old to be told. The quiet intimacy which the Academy 3 boasts lends itself well to Veirs and her minimal band, consisting of just viola, keyboard and guitar.  Much of the crowd remained seated on the venue’s battered floors during the warm up slots, and the atmosphere is so relaxed that many remained seated around the edge throughout her performance. 

Veirs is a refreshingly low maintenance act in her stage requirements; aside from some minimal lighting which serves to focus one all the more intently upon her the stage is kept bare. Keeping in with the current trend for getting back to basics, Veirs is joined on stage by the supporting bands during her performance and the foursome work well together to create some fantastic harmonies. 

She presents herself as a singer songwriter and has no qualms about coming on stage fresh faced with plaits and a blue polka dot dress. She is fairly heavily pregnant and will be nearing her final weeks by the time the tour ends in two months, but Veirs refuses to let this define her or the performance. She jokes about the awkward position of her guitar, and other than answering questions from an intrigued audience on the sex of the child (they don’t know), and her due date, she puts her music forward far in front of her protruding bump. As one man says in awe, “I never thought I’d see a pregnant lady playing a banjo.”

As a child, Veirs used to camp in Colorado and this has had an ongoing influence on her music. Much of the current album draws first and foremost on the high which comes from being in love, her love of the land though remains clear during the set and is most prominent in To The Country, the highlight song of the evening. Veirs’ vocals awake us from the spell her harmonies and soft voice have cast. She demands our full attention and opens our ears and our minds to a song which is fit for star gazing in the great plains whilst lying round a burning fire as we look up to the heavenly stars among whom Veirs tonight burns especially bright.

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