After gingerly hiking up the Paramount theater’s carpeted stairs, one has a good view of a harp-playing angel painted on the concave ceiling. Last night Joanna Newsom was perched at her own harp on the stage, directly beneath it.
“I see they got my rider,” she joked upon noticing the coincidence. It was the perfect setting for a night of gorgeous musicianship and, you know, an awkwardly long discussion about breakfast tacos among her band members. Percussion, banjo, violins, trombone, and some good ol’ hand clapping rounded out Newsom’s songs. The band played a satisfying mix of selections from all three of her major albums, even including three songs from Ys nearing 10 minutes each.
But it was the performance of her newest material from Have One on Me that was the most fun (“Good Intentions Paving Company”) and heartbreaking (“Go Long”). It is her more personal songs of late that get an eager audience closer to the songwriter who possess what has been called “celestial pluck.” The stories Newsom now weaves so gracefully with her improved (but still unmistakable) voice, half childish chirp and half folksy rasp, take place in homes, in California, and in averagely poignant relationships we can all relate to.
She closed the set with a well received rendition of “Peach, Plum, Pear,” in which she changed a prominent lyric to past tense. “I was blue,” she sang, and soon skipped offstage to the roar of a standing ovation in her blue and white checkered dress and a big smile.
*photo originally published in Bust magazine