Flock of Dimes | The Victoria Dalston | 4 October 2016
Very rarely has a musician looked as happy to be on stage as Jenn Wasner does tonight. She has good reason: the Wye Oak founder is on her first ever headlining tour as Flock of Dimes, sharing songs from the project’s debut album.
Clearly thrilled that a performance of all-new music has filled out The Victoria, she admits there were times during the three-year making of ‘If You See Me, Say Yes’ that finishing the LP seemed unlikely. But seeing it performed almost in full – and experiencing the audience’s enthusiastic response – there’s little doubt that these songs needed to be heard.
And tonight, they’re heard just the way they were created, with Wasner performing everything herself. Alone up on stage it’s all her on guitar, bass, keyboards, and vocals, even re-tuning her instruments and setting up loops between songs. Intentionally or not, the result is that these clearly personal, introspective tracks sound even more intimate than they do on record.
‘Sometimes It Is Right… To Have No Answer’, which bookends the album and opens her London show, sounds starker and more despairing. ‘The Joke’, introduced as being about “the great cosmic joke of our existence”, in turn, sounds sunnier than the subject matter suggests, while “ghost story” ‘Apparition’ turns up the intrigue by pairing Wasner’s delicate vocal with subtler electronic textures than before.
‘Flight’, inspired by the “biggest mistake” of her life, is less shy about its ‘80s synthpop influences with Wasner even adding a decade-appropriate sheen to her guitar sound, while ‘Semaphore’ (“about trying to communicate with people against all costs”) sounds more desperate – and then despairing – than the single version. And the plaintive ‘You, The Vatican’, truly sounds like it was written during a “really heavy week” as a way of “making something beautiful out of something tragic”.
But no matter how difficult the subject matter, or revelatory her between-song conversation, Wasner ensures her show remains decidedly upbeat, even inviting fans to help her drink the wine that’s been left in her dressing room and laughing off the convention of encores.
Instead of walking off stage in her uncomfortable shoes only to return minutes later, she stays up there to perform two cover versions. The first and one of her favourite songs ever, Joni Mitchell’s ‘Amelia’, receives a faithful guitar-and-voice recreation. Martha and the Muffins obscurity ‘One Day In Paris’, in turn, highlights the loneliness of life on tour – although it’s clear from Wasner’s broad smile that this past hour has been anything but.