Intimate was the ambience of the Irving Theater on Saturday night. Eager were the people who attended Erin McKeown's performance. It was the first time in several years that Erin had been back in town, and the anticipatory feelings of the gathered group were evident. Clumps of fans had convened on the blue movie theater style seats, and amicably discussed which of their favorites she would serenade them with.
Nova Scotian opener, Jenn Grant, set a lovely tone for the night. Her slightly Celtic vocals echoed gracefully with her electronic-folk sounds. Supported by her backing man, she kept the audience enamored with her haunting voice. Honestly, her use of tension and the pitch of her vocals call to mind a strange, but seemingly accurate comparison to those of Trevor Powers (Youth Lagoon). Strumming her guitar ever so gently, she seemed to almost be playing the air. The gorgeous songs and blissful presentation of them held everyone in the room in a sort of holy rapture. Jenn Grant is certainly a performer this writer would hunt down to hear again.
After the intermission, more little blue chairs had been scooted up close to the stage, so that the dedicated fans could catch a personal glimpse of the musician who they revered. Yes, revered. Energy and charisma flowed back and forth from the singer/songwriter/instrumentalist and her devoted audience between each of her songs. Erin's incredible insight and philosophy were peppered with jokes and light-hearted banter throughout the entire evening.
Taking some requests, and venturing back into some of her older material, she offered a pretty expansive spread of songs. "A Little Taste of You", a sax driven, drum thrashing song got the crowd singing along and head bobbing. Also, her song "Proof" received a special treatment. Having had to learn how to play/sing it backwards at 1.5 slower speed, she and her crew proceeded to melt the audience's faces off by performing it live just like that. There were definitely a few faces left dripping after such an auditory miracle. It was the trippiest thing this writer had ever seen in her long history of watching live music, and she's been to Summercamp.
A description about the album Manifestra and the natural process by which it was birthed came along during her set. She explained that her passion for social justice and activism had been something she tried to keep separate from her music career. The fear of not being able to successfully meld the two was a main stopping point for her, however, eventually these two bled into each other. Manifestra is as much a testament to her passion for LGBT support and legislative awareness as it is to environmental awareness. Listening to her opinions was like hearing a wise professor speak on topics that plucked a string in one's own heart.
Seeing this multi-faceted performer joke, laugh, and preach was an experience unlike any other. Not only was she passionate and intelligent, but also she commanded her music and the other two musicians with an air of dignity and respect. These two male musicians clearly held her in the utmost of esteem, and also happened to look as cheery as kids on Christmas morning. Erin never failed to let the saxophonist or drummer, who were both massively talented performers, have a go at the spotlight.
Erin McKeown and Jenn Grant's spectacular performances have certainly left a big, brilliant impression in this writer's memory banks. After this evening at the Irving, there's one main lesson to share with the readers of Nuvo: Girl Power!