Joanna Newsom takes Union Transfer on an introspective journey

Joanna Newsom | Photo by Chris Sikich |
Joanna Newsom | Photo by Chris Sikich |

Joanna Newsom exists in a musical universe of her own making, constructing song novellas that take the ears to places you would not expect. And then there is her harp, a musical fetish object for many, perched on a stage like a piece of an exquisite long forgotten ship that crashed into a rock venue. But Newsom is certainly so much more than her harp, as her voice, which has a range that is utterly supernatural, and songcraft always reveal something new about the world around us and, most importantly, ourselves.

With her 2015 LP Divers at her fingertips and classics abound from her older work, she and her fantastic band took a sold out Union Transfer on an introspective journey this past Wednesday. Leading off with fan favorite “Bridges and Balloons” was a great way to open the door to the current material. With “Anecdotes,” from Divers, Newsom balanced harp duties and piano duties, moving between both massive instruments with ease. “In California” from her previous record, Have One on Me, was the highlight of the night for me, as its torrents of emotion left the Philadelphia crowd in silent awe. And at the end of “Peach, Plum, Pear” there was a brilliant mix of Newsom’s harp and Ryan Francesconi’s guitar that was unlike any song end I can recall. One cannot leave out the rest of the band, as they filled in all the sonic nooks and crannies — Newsom’s brother Pete on drums and keys as well as violinist and vocalist extraordinaire Mirabai Peart.

Alela Diane opened with her folk vocals from another century matched with the guitar of Francesconi. She was a great bridge to Newsom’s set, whetting the ear’s appetite for the opus of sounds to come. It was certainly one of 2015’s finest live moments.

Bridges and Balloons
Monkey & Bear
Goose Eggs
In California
Leaving the City
Have One on Me
Peach, Plum, Pear
Waltz of the 101st Lightborne
Time, As a Symptom

Baby Birch


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