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Thursday, 21 August 2008 08:37

Joanna Newsom

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Live review:  Joanna Newsom, Royal Albert Hall, 28 September 2007

When I was asked to go to this concert, I was trepidatious, even reluctant.  I had heard her name mentioned before and I had attempted to listen to her earlier works, but her naif screechy voice had completely horrified me, if I am honest.  I could not get beyond the broken glass voice that scraped and scratched against the pristine elegance of the harp.  But I was convinced to go, nonetheless.

So, in the prestige of the second tier of the Royal Albert Hall, we took our seats, directly opposite the stage.  We had opted to enjoy a meal rather than see Roy Harper, which may have been a mistake, it was a good meal, nonetheless, and I prepared to be aurally assaulted by screech owls for an hour.

She came onto the stage with a winsome humility, and she spoke in a friendly and unassuming way to the audience.  And then, with a guitarist, a violinist and a drummer she began to play.

And from the first bars of music, 'Bridges and Balloons', the sound swelled up and around the vast hall and I found that I was crying.  Not out of sadness, but because of how utterly - overwhelmingly - beautiful the merging sounds and lyrics were.  In the living, breathing, soaring music was something that I had missed, there was an honesty and a fragility that was so compelling that it was impossible to not feel it.  And from that point on I was completely mesmerised. I think that when she played Sawdust and Diamonds I felt that I had actually travelled to a forgotten land.  It was, in the end, one of the most memorable, beautiful and suprising concerts I have ever had the good fortune to attend.

I expected to be assaulted by screech owls, but instead I was lifted from the ground by a fleet of a hundred rainbow plumed parrots, and flown to a beautiful place.

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