Streaming lyricism and melodic leaps combine with rockier sounds from folk songstress.
On Pride Weekend, there are only a few places in Manchester that are not in full party mode. One of those is Gulliver’s pub in the Northern Quarter. For a few hours on Saturday, the bijou upstairs space accommodated the tame, folky sounds of The Weather Station.
Fronted by songwriter Tamara Lindeman, the group
has been touring last year’s self-titled fourth album. With her most recent songs, Lindeman has taken the typical step from singing over a fingerpicked acoustic to backing herself with a plugged-in band, moving towards some rockier territory, and the set balances both formats successfully. A string of tracks performed by Lindeman alone is sandwiched between full-band takes, showcasing how smooth the band’s transition in sound has been. Their expanded sound is offered straight away with ‘Impossible’. The light rolling drums paired with the tremolo guitars create a warmth that the band manage to sustain throughout the set.
Continuing to nail extracts from The Weather Station
, especially on the upbeat ‘Kept It All to Myself’, with Lindeman ironically sharing her grand thoughts on love and nature that she’d once proudly kept secret. The changes in tempo are sadly not picked up by the crowd, who remain silenced and unmoved for every song. This dampens the mood once or twice, but when the band leave Lindeman to play alone, the crowd’s concentration enhances the tenderness of her solo efforts. She picks her way through ‘Loyalty’, with its dry but touching acknowledgement of love’s trapdoors – "Still it held me, loyalty, to a feeling, to some glimpse / Of a love that was only ever a kind of distance / That we could not cross. Gather no moss."
Lindeman is undoubtedly reciting from the school of Joni Mitchell, her streaming lyricism and big melodic leaps sounding uncannily like the Canadian folk queen at times. Her hair, long, blonde and flowing, seems to perfectly match her light and free song-writing style. But when the band are really grooving, they sound more like that other Canadian legend responsible for driving the folk-rock crossover, Neil Young. On ‘Complicit’, this is most audible, with a closing build-up of crashing symbols and guitar solos bordering on something from a Crazy Horse record.
The Weather Station also provides a rendition of ‘Now’ by do-wop artist Dion with more vigour than anything else heard all night. With Lindeman’s head banging and hair flailing, it excites the crowd yet also highlights how reserved she has been most of the night, and one can’t help but wonder why. What it does demonstrate is Lindeman’s potential to go full electric and succeed. The folk-rock hints dropped in last year’s album made for set highlights this evening. Like Laura Marling on this side of the Atlantic, her songwriting has proven strong enough to work in both soft and fast styles and the latter is something she should well embrace.
The Weather Station ends with ‘Thirty’, a reflection on Lindeman’s happiness, at an age women which are expected to fear. The song starts with Lindeman solely strumming some chords before the band join her one by one, then build to a crashing instrumental break. It’s a fitting portrayal of Lindeman’s sonic evolution, from gentle acoustic songstress to fronting an endearing folk-rock four-piece. Perhaps the next time they visit Manchester, they’ll be bringing an even more snarling sound.