Joanna Newsom can’t hide her delight as she takes to the Olympia Theatre stage. Irish fans are well renowned for the rowdy receptions but even by usual standards this is a warm welcome. It’s been almost five years since the Nevada native performed on these shores and this sold out Dublin crowd make sure she knows she and her Prince Charles harp have been sorely missed in the interim.
Arriving on stage at nine o’clock, Newsom and her band get the crowd on side promptly with an early performance of fan favourite ‘Bridges and Balloons’ from her debut album. Tonight’s set list magpies cheerfully from her complete discography but the chief focus will be placed on Divers, Newsom’s latest album. Released in October of last year, the record seems to effortlessly wed the idiosyncrasies of her earlier work with the more traditional songwriting she has favoured in recent years – it also seems to be a crowd pleaser judging by the reaction to opening chords of ‘Anecdote’.
Throughout the show, Newsom swaps between harp and piano – sometimes within the same song such as on ‘Divers’ – but it is when she is behind the harp that she seems most at home. ‘Waltz of the 101st Lightborne’ sounds just as majestic here as it does on record and ‘Leaving the City’ is a clear standout, the chorus of which makes for the evening’s rockiest moment with its military drums and short bursts of electric guitar.
Her four piece band do an exceptional job of replicating the Van Dyke Park’s orchestral swells on ‘Monkey & Bear’ and ‘Cosmia’ from Ys, as well as being equally comfortable supporting the more understated numbers with their deft instrumentation. Only ‘Peach, Plum, Pear’ fails to pack quite the same punch as on record with its new cluttered arrangement, meaning it loses some of its usual quiet power.
Prior to the main performance, Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold treated the early birds to a solo acoustic set, seemingly to be sharpening his tools ahead of the long-awaited return of his harmonious folk project. Old favourites such as ‘Grown Ocean’ and ‘Tiger Peasant Mountain Song’ drew cheers of recognition while a pair of dark, brooding new songs might be cause for fans of his band to get excited.
Following a rousing rendition of ‘Good Intentions Paving Company’, Newsom invites Pecknold back to the stage late on to duet with her on ‘On a Good Day’, a track Pecknold recently covered for the Paper Towns soundtrack. Newsom apologises in advance for any mistakes, claiming that she hasn’t performed the song in five or six years but one could hardly tell from the performance which is note perfect and the pair’s voices compliment one another nicely. For the encore, Newsom returns to the stage alone to finish off with a beautiful ‘Sawdust and Diamonds’.
Once the applause has died down, she thanks those who have gathered in the Olympia Theatre on this cold night and assures the crowd that this is a night that she will remember for years and years. It’s safe to say that more than a few others present will share her sentiment.