Live Review
JOANNA NEWSOM AT ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL
Joanna Newsom
Royal Festival Hall
London
13/05/10

Despite opulent surroundings, songs that stretch over the ten-minute mark and customary lyrics about daddy longlegs, Joanna Newsom’s two-night sell-out of the Royal Festival Hall feels more like a triumphant honky tonk bar room blitz than the hushed musings of an innocent harpist. Newsom’s loosened up after touring ‘Ys’ with a symphony orchestra, and now there’s a band on board as her well groomed hair comes down with a playful spring. New album ‘Have One On Me’ sees the 28-year-old flirt with the piano and it’s when she moves from harp to ivory that magic moves the South Bank. Fresh songs like ‘Good Intentions Paving Company’ bounce and roll as the title suggests, while album highlight ‘In California’ drips with melancholy sunshine. Much has been made of a vocal chord operation that’s changed the shrill ‘Milk-Eyed Mender’ into a softer toned ‘Nevada Girl’, which may be true but there’s a certain confidence now emanating from her work and performance that suggests there is now a heightened maturity beneath the surface. The languid beauty of album opener ‘Easy’ lets us glimpse this new found harmony further. An elegant beauty remains but Newsom’s got a twinkle in her eye and the next rounds on her.

By Ian Roebuck

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Originally published in issue 18 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. June 2010