Laura Veirs was playing a short series of dates to promote Tumble Bee, the collection of children's songs she released last year, and to test a couple of new songs out and dip into the back catalogue. Some of the stops on the tour inlcude free concerts exclusively for children and carers; there's been some toddler moshpits around the bubble machine along the way, she informs us from the stage – like a miniature version of the punk bands she played in previously. But tonight the children's songs are limited to two – including one with full audience participation – through they fit seamlessly in and make sense, even in the formal QEH setting. Most of the audience are here to see what she will do with the back catalogue again. Many are people, like us, who have seen her many times before. And every time I think I might not be able to make it, afford it, should I see someone new…I always end up going and I always end up completely entranced. Every time is subtly different yet always effortlessly good. She takes the song – form to some new places. She uses chords and riffs, time signatures and strange arrangements that you don't hear anywhere else. This is a performer who is really genuinely not easy to categorise. You could say "folk-Americana" and you wouldn't get it. You could say "singer-songwriter" and you wouldn't get it. Though with both you would be heading vaguely in the right direction. It's possible that whoever you are talking to would just mentally file LV under the same label as a thousand or more people who are currently standing there with an acoustic guitar and singing their songs. It's possible they would be thinking, like most people do, of a particular template. They may even yawn. And yet what she does lyrically and musically is so much more. There's a way she has of wrapping music and word up in warmth (and steeliness too) that is unusual and hugely involving. Something to do with the concentration and focus and enthusiasm in there. She looks like she is interested and that this is not just another gig but that it is a privilege to be making music of her own in these times and playing it for you.
Tonight she is really well served by musical collaborators Alex Guy (violins, loops, keyboards, vocals) and Tim Young (guitar and vocal). She's had some great bands down the years including the classic Tortured Souls line up with partner/producer Tucker Martine, Steve Moore and the Karl Blau. Alex and Tim provide a great mix of sensitive backing and playing, making these complex and beautiful songs and harmonies look easy. Laura treated us to a dip and spin through some wonderful back catalogue moments (Riptide, Ether sings) a lovely Neil Young cover (Unknown Legend) and a selection from last year's great July Flame. A couple of new songs (Shapeshifter, 10 Bridges) rounded out the evening, one of which written only the week before, both of which sounded like they could take their place alongside any of the back catalogue. She got a rapturous response and seemed a little stunned, as she put it, to travel all that way and find an audience on the other side of the ocean. She always will, I think.
Now on tour in the UK then some more dates in the US before settling down to write a new album.
The setlist was grabbed by a diehard fan who had seen Laura play many times. He allowed the picture – thank you!
When you give your heart
Sun is king
Life is good blues
Little lap dog
Lonely angel dust
Make something good
I can see your tracks