Dear Reader + Laura Gibson @ The Social, London, 16 Jan 2012
The Social has the feeling of a found space in subterranean central London. It’s cold, has concrete walls and metal surfaces. There’s a cargo net hanging from the ceiling whose acoustic properties are dubious, and so lends more incongruousness to a venue ill formed for music.
It’s in this tuning fork-shaped space that Dear Reader (Berlin via Johannesburg, South Africa) and Laura Gibson (Portland, USA) shoehorn themselves to play patchwork sets of melancholy and magic realism this evening. Uncomfortably completing Twister moves to change instruments and move around the stage, both bands experience a strait-jacketing of their appeal. This is a shame, but both bands keep on keeping on, and charm the girls are with their brightness and warmth.
Dear Reader and Laura Gibson are label mates touring together in these early days of this new year. Dear Reader’s driving force, Cherilyn MacNeil, sparkles through songs from latest record Idealistic Animals. ‘Moles’ is an audience favourite; it is trademark Dear Reader storytelling at its whimsical best. Coquettish trumpets rub through the fur of song ‘Great White Bear’. Dear Reader take the audience on a journey that thrums with fairy tale top notes and only occasionally stumbles over mis-timed orchestration.
Laura Gibson’s trail mix of rough melancholic lullabies sit well in the awkwardness of The Social. Her voice draws you in and makes hearts sink with it into the bitter-sweet world she creates in her songs. Gibson’s version of ‘In The Pines’ (also known as ‘Black Girl’/ ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night’ and made popular by Lead Belly / Nirvana) has the venue hushed. She debuts songs from new album La Grande this evening. The new songs play on her strengths: reedy vocals spiralling through plucked strings with a monomaniacal time signature. Highlights are the dusky ‘Skin, Warming Skin’ and ‘Feather Lungs’ with its undertow of regret.
Laura Gibson’s La Grande is released in the UK on the 16th: the same day as this gig where it receives its UK live debut. The album can be streamed in its entirety here. Let the girls are know what you think of it.