Laura Gibson | Courtyard Theatre | 5 September 2016
On her latest album, Laura Gibson sounds like she’s right in the room with you. So when she actually is right in the room with you, there’s an instant bond between her and the audience, creating a safe environment for honesty, vulnerability, and intimacy.
That’s never more apparent than during ‘Five And Thirty’ when, after confessing she’s only recently started taking viola lessons, Gibson bravely plays a solo on that very instrument. ‘Milk-Heavy, Pollen Eyed’, sung without a microphone, comes very close, her melancholy voice perfectly matched by a violin at its most forlorn.
But even when she’s joined by her full band – a drummer and two multi-instrumentalists handling guitar, bass, keys, vocal harmonies, and strings – Gibson’s feelings are never far from the surface. During a set that showcases much of new offering ‘Empire Builder’, the singer-songwriter sounds alternatively breezy (‘Two Kids’), apprehensive (‘The Search For Dark Lake’), pensive (‘Louis’), adventurous (‘Empire Builder’), insecure (‘The Last One’), and self-assured (‘Damn Sure’).
And, although the emphasis is very much on Gibson’s incisive lyrics – “Now you’re sitting in the kitchen with someone else/Stacking up peels of your clementines,” offers ‘Damn Sure’; “I thread myself right through your sorrow,” declares ‘Five And Thirty’; “Two hearts, new start, every card is wild/ There in your arms, with the radio up and the windows down,” recalls ‘Two Kids’ – there are many opportunities for her band to shine. Like ‘Caldera, Oregon’, which rises to a triumphant crescendo only hinted at by the studio recording; ‘Empire Builder’, which rhythmically echoes the motion of the train it’s named after; and the moving violin accompaniment to ‘The Search For Dark Lake’.
These are beautiful songs, beautifully performed, and by the time Gibson leaves the stage for the final time – having poked fun at the ritual of encores – the bond between her and the audience is, if anything, stronger than ever.