Monday, 20 August 2007

Martha Wainwright, Island Arts Centre, Tues 14th August.

Last week I went to see Canadian-American chanteuse Martha Wainwright at Island Arts Centre. She is currently touring in lieu of her new album which is to be released in the new year. The evening was opened by The Winding Stair, an unconventional quartet who meld Celtic and conventional styles with beautiful harmonies and some really original ideas. Their new album Finistere is just out, and definitely worth a look.

Although other nights of the tour have featured a full band, tonight's show was a solo acoustic show. Martha appeared on stage looking beautiful and started on the front foot, opening strongly with some banter with the crowd. However as the night wore on, she did start to cut a lonely figure on stage, fluffing some of the lyrics from her debut, and at times crossing the line from charismatic performer into aimless rambling between songs.

The show itself was stunted by too many new songs within the set. Its obvious that she is itching to play the new material she has been working so hard on, but it didn't really appease the waiting crowd.

I like Martha Wainwright. The above paragraphs might sounds negative, so I just want to clear that up. It's just that I think that she could be so much more. Her voice is a unique gift, and when she sings a whole room listens and is abandoned to her image.

I can't help but feel that she is struggling beneath the weight of expectation from her family, inside of the shadow of her brother who has been more successful at carving out his niche in the industry. She even commented as much on making a mistake, saying something along the lines as "No wonder I'm the least successful one!". It was only fitting that on making a mistake during crowd favourite 'Ball and Chain' she restarted the songs at the bridge crying out "Why does this always happen?!' as if it were a in-joke of previous tantrums.

Her debut was good, exceptional in places, and has laid a basis for her to rise up the ranks. There is no reason why she couldn't become as iconic a figure as someone like Emmylou Harris - a singer respected and admired by all within music. (Especially as her contemporaties number Natasha Beddingfield and Lily Allen...) She could be a voice of a generation, if only she figured out what it was that she wanted to say..

3 stars ***.

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