Featuring Wayne's World references and a second-hand rant about beards
There’s an actorly precision to Cassandra Jenkins’ delivery – simultaneously emotional and detached, near abstract but also direct and affecting – that makes watching her such an engrossing experience. Combine that with her approach to songwriting and arrangement that leans into the beautifully strange and melancholic, with documents of everyday observations and feelings made from drone, elegantly simple melodicism, conversational spoken word and billowy, willowy saxophone, and there’s something intense, thought-provoking and rather moving in the offing with her live incarnation.
Perhaps realising that this recipe might be a touch too rich, though, for mid-afternoon on a festival Sunday, Jenkins peppers her set on End Of The Road’s idyllic Garden Stage with Wayne’s World quotes (Jenkins reports she has “a lot to say” about her favourite-ever movie) and entertaining stories about fan encounters on tour. She also introduces a new song, ‘Pygmalion’, as being inspired by a friend’s mother’s hatred of beards – a risky position to adopt at End Of The Road, to say the least – but then reassures her predictably hirsute crowd that she’s actually ok with facefuzz: “It’s okay, you’re in a safe space here”, she jokes.
It all adds up to Jenkins striking a perfectly rounded tone here, clearly confident enough in the depth and resonance of her songs to crack wise and lighten the mood in between them. Indeed, like a millennial Suzanne Vega, there’s a calm, comfort and gentle incisiveness to the way she performs, steely-eyed, poised and self-assured, eager for you to listen and clearly thankful that you did. Despite being the show’s star, too, she leads her band with a sense of inclusiveness, from the earthy Americana of ‘Michelangelo’ right through to the majestic, soaring ‘Hard Drive’, a multi-viewpoint story of detachment, heartbreak and redemption, stretched out here into a glorious ten-minute panorama. It’s a masterful festival show that mutates from the curious to the welcoming to the invincible over its gone-too-soon 45 minutes.
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