If this reviewer is ever stupid enough to martyr himself for some strange cause he will pass on the 70 virgins for just one Martha Wainwright standing in the shape of a capital -A’ in a little, little black dress with white knee socks on, singing -Stormy Weather’ for eternity.
A seated, and quite reserved Olympia received Martha on Sunday night. Such a subdued reception is a little unusual for a Dublin crowd welcoming a fiery, confident, cheeky (and if we may again lower the tone, foxy) woman touring such a fine album of songs about infidelity, loss, memories and a bit of hate. Earlier on the tour she really rocked it to standing audiences but tonight it was faster, livelier numbers that suffered in the Olympia, but fantastically it was the more mellow, considered numbers that were the real treat. Opening to a welcoming but tame enough reception she rattled through -Comin’ Tonight’ and -Bleeding All Over You’ (fluffing her lyrics a bit) without too much impression but as her and the band loosen up things take a warmer turn when she orders four Guinness for the band from the stage and plays right into our hands.
She’s got so many shadows to step out of; Her legendary troubadour Dad, massively successful brother and iconic mother Kate McGarrigle who, in a real treat, not only accompanies her daughter on piano this evening but also sings her own -Talk To Me Of Mendocino’, a sublime and beautiful moment of the evening which sent us off into a daydream. But Martha has, on her second album, carved her own self-assured niche and fully stood up on her own. The drawl the uses in a lot of her pronouncing is wonderfully distinctive and the way she drags four syllable out of the word -sounds’ in ‘Factory’ is a joy.
But once things settle in and State shakes the need to try and remember every detail about the gig it is a pleasure. Peaking in the middle with the quieter and older work: the aforementioned -Factory’ and -Year Of The Dragon’. She later plays that glorious -Stormy Weather’ with just her husband, who steps out from behind the bass, on piano. Her voice really is the star of the Martha Wainwright show: husky in all the right parts and evocative of smokey bars, very late nights and places you really shouldn’t be. But full of range, and rage too when called upon, this is possibly why the quieter numbers worked best in this theatre setting.
Near the end of the evening it’s just her and a guitar up there singing -Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole’ and though the crass title is misleading, it is glorious and epic – stripped right down, this is the good stuff. Sweeping to the top and bottom of her lived-in range, it took over the whole room. Bringing the band back on to close it with -See Emily Play’ added nothing. We’re still relishing the peaks of the evening, and none are more relished than when her voice, half singing, half yelling, breaks a tiny bit at the top of ‘I will not say I am right for you’¦’. Pain and pleasure and everything in between.