Monday, February 28th, 2005
It’s always risky going to a show when the artist has a new record to push and you don’t have that record. If they draw heavily from the newer material, will hearing mostly unfamiliar songs diminish one’s enjoyment of the show? That did weigh on my mind a bit last night when I went to see M Ward at the ElMo. I had yet to pick up Transistor Radio and had only listened to the stream at Merge once. But cut me some slack – it only came out last week. I haven’t had time to make it to the record store. Anyway.
Taking the stage in an unassuming brown shirt and wool cap, and considerably younger looking than I’d expected, Ward immediately tore into a frenzied acoustic instrumental (sounded familiar but I couldn’t pick out the name), leaving most of the audience’s jaws on the floor – what a way to start things off. The next hour and fifteen minutes were spent with Ward’s warm, raspy voice and virtuoso fingerpicked acoustic guitar (as well as some piano) while playing material from both Transfiguration Of Vincent and the new Transistor Radio. Scattered amongst the originals were covers of Joanna Newsom, David Bowie, Daniel Johnston, and The Beach Boys, done so uniquely in Ward’s folk/country style that if you didn’t know better, you’d swear they were his own compositions (though he did fess up to which ones weren’t his before starting). With the assistance of a looper pedal, his single acoustic guitar became almost a full band as Ward layered the various parts needed to recreate the arrangements of the albums – the result was nothing short of spectacular.
This show turned out to be part of a warm-up mini tour – Ward promised to be back in the next couple months with a full band, likely Norfolk & Western, whom I’d actually expected to be opening this show up. I have to wonder if Ward with a full band would be as impressive as him solo? I guess there’s only one way to find out, and if the ensemble experience is anywhere near as good as the one-man act, it’ll definitely be worth seeing. Only downside to this show was no merch – I guess I’ll have to get my copy of Transistor Radio the old retail way. Oh yeah, photos.
The first new House Of Love album in twelve years is out today. North Americans who don’t want to pay the import prices (that’s $28 CDN at Amazon.ca, if you were wondering), I direct you to the good folks at cdwow.com. Ten pounds for the album, postpaid anywhere in the world – whatta deal. I’ve dealt with them before and they’ve always been terrific. I don’t expect Days Run Away to get a domestic release, so this is probably my – and your – best bet.
np – The Chameleons / Strange Times