Laura Veirs LIVE @ The Deaf Institute, Manchester
“Winter’s on the way, I think we’re gonna make it out, if we stick together now, stick together now” hushes Laura Veirs on an autumn’s night that is threatening the cold hard bite of winter beyond the realms of the cosy Deaf Institute attic.
So tonight it only seems fitting that as the trees outside are shedding their leaves, Veirs too has opted for a stripped back performance with just the distinct guitar arpeggios and innocent vocals that form the roots of her music on show this evening.
Opening with the wonderfully earnest tribute to the prolific yet unsung bassist “Carole Kaye” along with the aforementioned “Shape Shifters”, Veirs makes clear early on that fans of her last two albums July Flame and Warp and Weft are in for a good helping of both. “Make Something Good” from the former is seamlessly adapted from piano ballad to guitar heartbreaker, whereas “Sadako Folding Cranes” makes a strong case for the controversial art of live whistling featuring in more sets if done so this well.
Whilst the set-list tonight is a self-confessed impromptu one, it is played from the heart comprising songs that “mean the most to me in my life right now” she explains during one of many charming on-stage conversations. Dipping into a number of other tracks from her expansive 10 album back catalogue, Veirs also makes sure to reward the loyal fans that have been with her the whole time with Grimm’s Tales style outings from her children’s the album Tumblebee and “Spike Drivers Blues/Freight Train” on the Two Beers Veirs EP.
Accepting that a whole gig of your own material sung with just an acoustic can risk beauty at the hands of monotony, the set finds room for welcome covers of Daniel Johnstons’ “True Love Will Find You in The End” and the seminal “13” by Big Star, the of which turns into a duet as a punter chips in to save the singer as she loses sight of the lyrics in the lush pastoral melody.
As forecast earlier in the set however, Veirs ensures the audience stick together before they brace the chilly Mancunia outside. Orchestrating some of the most immensely complex audience participation, the likes of no one who chanced a few too beers this evening can have seen coming, on “Life is Good Blues” the crowd obediently pipe in the correct ba-ba-ba rhythm remarkably without hitch.
“That was the best of the tour” she grins.
Title track of July Flame rounds off the encore with a similar participation (“Can I call you my own, can I call you mine?”) that leaves the singer visibly humbled by tonight’s rapt audience.
Leaving the final chord ring out, Veirs finally leaps off-stage and gets behind the merch stand to chat to fans and sign CDs. With the natural sounds and warmth of character the singer illustrated on-and-off stage tonight, even the frostiest of critics would have found it difficult to have not thawed out tonight. With more gigs like this, perhaps winter won’t be so bad after all.
Words: Thom Williams
Photo credited to Chloe Aftel