Mirah w/ Norfolk & Western
Schubas Tavern – Chicago, IL
October 3, 2009
With the exception of the four songs featured on MySpace , and being familiar with the impressive big-name indie-rock bands that the fellow Portland trio has backed in the past (M. Ward, Bright Eyes, The Decemberists, Jolie Holland, as well as Mirah), I hadn’t heard much of Norfolk and Western. There didn’t seem to be too much to report; no particular song or part of their performance really blew me away or filled my notebook (though “Turkish Wine” was probably best), but everything was instrumentally tight and their set was definitely enjoyable and worthwhile. Percussionist Rachel Blumberg played for both Mirah and N&W, for both sets, which – if my math is correct – meant four sets. Norfolk and Western seemed to be well-liked by the audience, especially based on post-show chatter, and to me they seemed most impressive backing Mirah on “Generosity,” “The World Is Falling,” and “Mt. St. Helen.”
Mirah is not the performer to rifle through songs. From the get-go she was talking to the audience, “Okay, it’s 8:06, time to start – so early, huh?” as she played her first of two intimate Schubas’ sets. The percussion is always a plus at Mirah shows – driving the songs, yet simple – and the touch of violin with Mirah’s great voice made even the so-so new tracks in the set work. “Skin and Bones” played out better live, beginning the set on a high; “Gone Are All The Days” felt like a regular already and came out nicely, while the subdued take on “Jerusalem” fell short.
Mirah played her scribbled set out of order, going with “You’ve Gone Away Enough” before “Education,” which opened up another moment in which Mirah would spring into story – this one about how her tangible notebook beats a Google document any day, and even though it’s often unreadable and lose-able, it’s her mess. Surprisingly, I preferred the fuller-band feel at this show, and the aid of the clarinet and trumpet certainly worked in the show’s favor. “Generosity” was enhanced with echo-vocal effects and a synthesized looping-device – which rocked. The smaller touches – like the chorus of voices and effects that went with the lyric “And not a single lonesome sigh” – were appreciated (by me, at least).
This was the first time I had heard “Nola,” her post-Katrina fundraiser song; it was the most ballin’est shit ever!!!!! (as Aziz Ansari might say). But, “We’re Both So Sorry” was able to trump that, coming next, and filling in the missing aggression/passion that “Jerusalem” lacked. The song really picked up in its second half, and was by far the crowd-pleaser. Although “Country Of The Future” isn’t my fav, hearing the live rendition of this Italian-esque number was pretty neat. The last of the pre-encore set, her fourteenth, was a mellofied version of “While We Have The Sun” backed with glockenspiel.
Mirah admitted upon a minute’s return that there’s really nowhere to go backstage in the cozy venue, and went with the classic, “Cold, Cold Water.” The fan-requested “Sweepstakes Prize” was turned down in place of “Cold, Cold Water,” as it was the other song the band hadn’t practiced – Sweepstakes would’ve been much radder. Mirah w/ full band (+ Norfolk) dominated their surprise ending, the “Gone Are All The Days” version that sounded as if the Eurythmics or the Gossip had covered it and mastered it. I could definitely listen to a full album of songs like these. All in all, super good, sort of sad there weren’t as many old songs, but nothing short of Mirah-quality-awesome.
Mirah w/ Norfolk & Western – Schubas – Oct 3, 2009 (Early Show)
1) Skin And Bones
2) Gone Are All The Days
4) You’ve Gone Away Enough
7) The World Is Falling
8 – Mt. St. Helen
10) We’re Both So Sorry
11) Light The Match
12) The Forest
13) Country Of The Future
14) While We Have The Sun
15) Cold, Cold Water
16) Gone Are All The Days (Dance Version – Kickass)