Marissa Nadler

support Di Garbi
author AP date 30/09/19 venue Ideal Bar, Copenhagen, DEN

Looking at the Danish gig calendar, it seems reasonable to assume that many Danish bookers either attended, or read things about this year’s edition of Roadburn. Quite a few of the artists that our delegation to the iconic Dutch festival found to be revelatory have since been booked for concerts in Denmark, including of course tonight’s headliner Marissa Nadler, whose stock has been on the rise again of late. The Washington, DC-based ‘dream folk’ singer-songwriter is no stranger to Denmark of course, having played here in 2009, 2011 and 2016 previously, and after the release of her eighth studio album “For My Crimes” in 2018, and “Droneflower” — her collaborative work with Stephen Brodsky — earlier this year, she is on everyone’s lips again. Her latest show was supposed to take place at VEGA’s small hall, but if I’m honest, the more intimate Ideal Bar is far better suited for hosting her famously fragile performance. It also means that the venue gets to be pretty packed, helping to create the intensely personal atmosphere she tends to thrive in.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest


Di Garbi

Tonight’s support act Di Garbi — a self-confessed weirdo — emerges from backstage wearing a kimono and hairpin, and immediately sits down behind a red keyboard, which, together with her gorgeous singing voice, is her weapon of choice in musical terms. The first song is quite mantric, with washings of synth falling in slowly, dramatically, to expose a stream of sampled spoken word in a foreign language I cannot place, before Di Garbi takes over and asks, “Can you have too much of a good thing?” It feels more like an essay than a song in the traditional sense, and it has me wondering whether Di Garbi’s material can really entice me. She then throws a curveball with a much darker track, in which an exquisite piano melody produces a striking contrast to pulses of synthesised bass, and leaves me thinking Di Garbi must have taken some notes from Chelsea Wolfe when she came up with it. She certainly could not be accused of lacking eclecticism, and although she comes across as a little shy on stage, this turns out to be a ruse when she speaks to us in between the songs full of bone dry humour. “The person this next song is about was a bitch, and needed the gun…”, she tells us before airing the amusingly titled “Desert Eagle Flies in A Minor”, while earlier on, noting the deafening silence in the room, she tells us “it’s always a mess before the storm… in [her] life” entirely in whispers. As Di Garbi brings her set to a conclusion with a moody, longing piano piece, I am thus positively surprised in spite of the fact that her music is perhaps a bit too eccentric to really move me.

6


Marissa Nadler

Marissa Nadler walks onto the stage rather unceremoniously and lays off with “Poison” — a new single she wrote in collaboration with John Cale earlier this year — with the houselights still on. I am convinced (as are quite a few others by the looks of it) that she is simply doing a final sound check, but once the lights do eventually dim, the venue falls eerily silent. Unlike so often, there is no chatter even when Nadler is tuning one of her guitars, which helps to heighten the intense atmosphere and provide her with the backdrop that her beautifully fragile singing deserves. The likes of “All out of Catastrophes” (taken from her 2018 album “For My Crimes”), in which she elegantly harmonises her own voice using a loop pedal, and “Dead City Emily” (off 2014’s “July”), with its scintillating 12-string guitar melody, are delivered in shivering renditions — even if Nadler herself seems to disagree due to some problem with her monitors. There is something extremely relatable about both the nature of these songs and the timidness of Nadler’s performance, but it takes me some time to figure out what it is. Indeed, it strikes me that I am reminded of a scene that recurs in so many Hollywood movies, in which a supremely talented musician is resigned to playing to a handful of drunks in the local dive bar in rural America, waiting to be discovered and made a star. It is easy to imagine Nadler as that person, even as she performs to an assembly of fans and has eight full-length records to her name — glamorous, yet also delicate and down to earth.

It is hard to point out the highlights in a set bursting at the seams with them, but if I was to judge them by the chills they induce, then certainly Nadler’s smoky singing in “Blue Vapor”, the sombre 12-string melody in “Firecrackers”, and the tragic lyricism in the titular “For My Crimes” would be high up the list. Still, there is so much more going on than ‘merely’ the music that makes Nadler such a revelation in the live setting. She is reserved, and her presence on stage is introspective, but her expression is full of subtleties like drawing a deep breath or sighing in the silence between two songs, that breathe so much life into her performance. I am completely lost in her music and when I look around, it seems to have that same effect on most other people too; couples are embracing each other and locking hands here, someone is standing ghostly still with his eyes shut there, while others are afraid to even set their bottle on a table for fear of making a racket. After “Anyone Else” and, after a brief encore, Nadler’s cover of “Little Bit of Rain” by Fred Neil have brought the show to a conclusion, I dishonest if I didn’t admit there is the semblance of tears glistening in my eyes in appreciation of this muted, yet touching concert.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Poison
  • 02. All out of Catastrophes
  • 03. Drive
  • 04. Dead City Emily
  • 05. Save Me a Place (Fleetwood Mac cover)
  • 06. Dying Breed
  • 07. For My Crimes
  • 08. Blue Vapor
  • 09. Said Goodbye to That Car
  • 10. We Are Coming Back
  • 11. Firecrackers
  • 12. Anyone Else

— Encore —

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