Hope Sandoval always had a reputation for being difficult. In the days of Mazzy Star it was standard-fare for this indie chanteuse to conduct interviews with shades on giving single-word answers. During the early-90’s Sandoval pioneered alternative dream pop and her obstinate repute was taken as the sour against the sweetness of her talent, immeasurable beauty and of course that voice.
It seems little has changed. The show in Vicar St came with rules and instructions from the doormen. No bar during the show. No photography, with or without flash. Phones were on silent for fear of Nokia’s Cicada interrupting the set, which would result in an immediate end to the gig.
The stage was dimly lit in blue and purple with an outline of Hope in the centre wearing a white tu-tu style skirt. Opening with Nick Drakes’ -Courtin’ Blues’ her voice fills the room like a velvety fog; husky, dense and saccharine and the effect is instantly calming and atmospheric.
Earlier this year Hope Sandoval released Through The Devil Softly, her second album with The Warm Inventions. Along with her partner Colm Ã“ CÃosÃ³ig (My Bloody Valentine), the pair created a lush album that has all the aesthetics of her previous works but possibly not as strong on melody as 2001’s Bavarian Fruit Bread. In saying that, when performed live the band inject hooks into the material that didn’t jump out on the record. The percussion is soft and sophisticated. The guitar is reverb-heavy with tinges of country blues. There’s a shimmering interplay between guitar and vocals on -Blanchard’. Hope flits from harmonica to xylophone lifting the music by adding some inticrate details.
There’s very little interaction with the audience, except to announce Colm’s birthday followed by a brief ‘Happy Birthday’ sing-along. The backdrop has visuals of ballerinas, eerie Vegas scenes and old tour footage. -There’s a Willow’ finds Sandoval in a reflective mood while on -Blue Bird’ she wonders ‘Is there a devil in your eyes?’.
From Bavarian Fruit Bread, -Charlotte’ is a delicate ballad delivered with the familiar breathy vocal but it’s -Suzanne’ that is greeted with a warmest reception of the night. The entire set was soothing, hazy and captivating but also sedative (in a good way). So when as the band closed the set with -For The Rest of Your Life’, it was thrilling to find the them spin off in a dark, chaotic psychedlic jam.
Perhaps there’s an element of artistic personalilty syndrome about Hope Sandoval, the rumours and reports are not unfounded; she has been witnessed storming off stage on several occasions. Perhaps its for all the right reasons; to create a stage that projects her voice and her music as she would like it to be experienced. And when it works, it works beautifully.