Sunday, July 18, 2010


I was very worried about this gig. It was part of Liverpool Summer Pops season - also playing this year Status Quo, The Australian Pink Floyd Show and Rod Stewart!?. This particular evening was billed as ‘Bob Harris presents’ and featured a couple of youthful, local support bands who had nothing to do musically with Kristin Hersh or even Bob Harris for that matter. It all felt like a poorly thought-through, hastily assembled event put on by a commercial promoter who did not know who or what they were dealing with.

Common-sense and experience though should have steadied my nerves and made me realise there is nothing to worry about when Kristin Hersh plays - whatever the set-up. Last year I saw her play in a lending library in Burnley - it was one of the best gigs of the year. Plus luckily tonight Bob Harris never made his presence known.

The smaller room at O2 Academy Liverpool is one of the better commercial gig venues I’ve been to and if you are at the front has a surprising intimacy. But once the five-piece support band removed all their kit (and their large banner) the bare stage suddenly looked intimidatingly empty and uninviting. If you haven’t seen Kristin perform before (and tonight I was accompanied by Mr H of Merseyside who hadn't) there’s not much of a ‘stage-act’ - she plays centre-stage with one guitar, one mic, rarely moving. But there is drama and passion and intensity a-plenty in her songs.

This was an eclectic set – older and new solo songs including five from the just-released-as-a-book “Crooked” album – and old and new Throwing Muses songs – all baring very little relationship to the hand-written ‘set-list’ below (more a menu?). So early in the set we got Muses rarity ‘Fish’ from 1987 or thereabouts and then later on 'Sunray Venus', one of this year’s Muses songs still being demoed.

She may not be an animated performer but the power of those stark, emotional lyrics, the rapid switches in intensity and her powerful thousand-yard stare make a compelling presence. Kristin thanks everyone in a ‘aw-shucks’ manner, tells funny anecdotes about bugs in German hotel bedrooms or weird neighbours but when she sings these raw, moving songs it is hair-raisingly spooky.

To be fair to Liverpool Summer Pops and even to Bob Harris, the breadth of music presented at this festival was far greater than just the hoary old stadium-rockers and has-beens I mentioned above – also playing were/are Tuung, Eve Selis, Piney Gir and Lightspeed Champion. But whoever you place her alongside, Kristin Hersh stands out as a true original.

The REAL set-list:
Mississippi Kite
Gazebo Tree
Hysterical Bending
Sno Cat
Speed and Sleep
Sunray Venus
Your Dirty Answer
Deep Wilson
Summer Salt
Snake Oil

Kristin Hersh is playing a few UK and Ireland shows including the Giant Sand 25th Anniversary event at the Barbican over the next week but will be back in the UK in January to coincide with the launch of her memoir "Paradoxical Undressing" (called "Bat Girl" for US release).

SUNRAY VENUS (Throwing Muses demo)
Kristin Hersh
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Anonymous said...

yes, i too thought that the support bands did not have any connection to the main performer,i have been to the 02 academy many times and while i have enjoyed the experience, i feel that the level of noise and chatting especially when a main band are on is very disappointing ,stay home if you want to talk, most of us are there to listen to the band!saw kristin 2 years ago in the manchester academy were she had a band with her which i loved,while i was initially worried about kristin beimg solo, i neednt have she filled the stage with her wonderful songs and brilliant musicianship,and her special voice, love the new songs as well,thanks kristen for gracing our city of your wonderful presence!

The Archivist said...

Agree totally Anon especially about talking while bands are playing FFS. Here's some more KH solo - from last year's Burnley Library gig

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