The Weather Station
Gosforth Civic Theatre,
Thursday 1st September
Curiosity, I guess, is a big motivator for many of us when it comes to live music – a case in point was tonight’s offering at Gosforth Civic Theatre.
I’d read the glowing album reviews, listened to quite a few tracks over the years and was interested to see how it would all come together in a live setting.
The Weather Station then, having appeared the previous night in Edinburgh landed in Newcastle on the first day of September, apt in some ways as turning that particular page on the calendar always seems to me to symbolise cyclical change; much like The Weather Station’s most recent recorded output, which makes up the bulk of tonight’s set.
Emerging out of Toronto’s vibrant folk scene, Tamara Lindeman who is essentially The Weather Station debuted a moody, introspective sound in 2008 with her independently released East EP and has gradually built a worldwide audience who are clearly tuned into the environmental and social justice themes that permeate her songs.
Moreover, where previous Weather Station albums have featured, for the most part, Folk-derived songs, her 2021 release, IGNORANCE embraced synths, strings and percussion, which gives the album a borderline Jazz-Rock feel.
A sound much more expansive and dynamic than its predecessors. The follow-up, released earlier this year – How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars is a parallel work of [mostly] voice and piano; songs which were deemed too delicate for inclusion on Ignorance.
There is no introduction tonight, she takes to the stage, sits down at the piano and performs ‘Stars’, a delicate Joni Mitchell influenced solo.
Then she’s joined by her band for three songs from Ignorance – Wear, Loss and Separated.
The mix sounds slightly off to me and as if reading my mind the band get into a discussion about the sound they are getting from the stage monitors.
Someone calls out “Turn it off, then turn it back on again” – which they don’t.
Seemingly satisfied with a bit of tinkering they crack on and perform the only two older songs of the night.
One of which – ‘Way It Is and The Way It Could Be’ turns into an instrumental version as to her apparent embarrassment Lindeman goes blank and forgets the words.
It’s an hour into tonight’s 75-minute set before they perform Robber, the opening track from Ignorance, and it is the most enthusiastically received song of the night.
Its extended intro builds a delicious layer of keys, guitar and skittering, jazzy drums before Lindeman’s voice gently enters,
‘I never believed in the robber.’
It’s a powerful, insightful protest song.
As she has stated in an interview,
‘There are real human people who are literally robbing us and all future generations of everything that matters, right now.’
Tonight, Gosforth appears to agree as the volume of the applause goes up a notch as the song fades out.
The sparser tunes lifted from How Is It That I Should Look At The Stars feature minimal or no drumming, which for me is something of a relief: as I found the drum sound at times overbearing; swamping Tamara Lindemans vocal, to the extent that at times I couldn’t decipher the words.
The pace slows when Lindeman’s piano-playing is to the fore.
She lingers over her singing, giving the words space and clarity.
The track ‘Ignorance’ which shares its title with last year’s album finds Lindeman being woken in Australia by the sound of a bird – a magpie.
It is no relation to its European counterpart she tells us during her longest between-song talk of the evening, she goes on to say that she has enjoyed seeing the magpies in Newcastle.
This brings forth a group chuckle in the auditorium, clearly, Lindeman has no knowledge of the football-related connotations of this statement; and goes on to speak eloquently of the British colonialists’ habit of naming native wildlife and flora after similar homeland species and the attempts made by humans to dominate nature.
Other songs turn away from the bigger picture.
In Sway, for example, the topic of ignorance is given a more personal setting;
‘the ways I will never know you and how you may never know me’ –
she sings and in her preamble to Song she tells of the emotional journey she embarks on immediately before and during the writing process.
In conclusion, it was an engrossing, somewhat introspective performance that, for me, calls for the albums to be re-visited and listened to with increased concentration.
Maybe part of that reflection is based on the fact that I came away wishing I had heard a little more vocal clarity, rather than the sound of the drummer ‘giving it some’; especially during the nine songs lifted from Ignorance.
But all told, It was a good, solid performance without being overly ‘showy’ and maybe that was the point after all – to make you think.
Review by Graham downbytheriver9.com