Martha Wainwright @ The Astor Theatre
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
It’s a warm night in Perth, the crowd are nervous to see Martha Wainwright a Canadian singer known for her sardonic take on folk music and passionate performances.
The opening act sees WA’s own Mama Kin, aka Danielle Caruana, giving a wonderfully peppy performance, Caruana’s humorous anecdotes preceding over the in-between song silence and creating a fun and comfortable environment. With songs about her children such as Red Blood River giving a passionate and devastatingly honest view of motherhood, her Laura Nyro-esque vocals soar over the piano-driven songs, ending on the beautiful ballad My Friend.
After a short interval Martha Wainwright arrives on stage to the excitement of an eager crowd. Wainwright is an artist from a family of folk royalty yet she takes the stage to offer a regal and self-assured image all of her own.
Instantly she delves into first song I Am a Diamond with just herself and an acoustic guitar, her haunting vocals relaying feelings of loss but also feelings of hope and salvation. As Wainwright performs she jerks her body around like some sort of musical exorcism which just adds to the emotional performance.
Wainwright speaks of her children and performs a song brother Rufus wrote for one of them called Francis, quirky piano ballad almost reminiscent of a show tune. With a full band behind her now, Wainwright’s lyrics mutate from angelic to dark and harrowing begging for our love and attention. Her guitar playing is passionate and fast in interesting open tunings. She plays songs off of her first album, current album and some new songs written on a recent UK tour.
The highlight of the evening is a powerful cover of the Sandy Denny song Who Knows Where the Time Goes. The set then finishes with the crowd roaring for more. Wainwright then returns for an encore that includes a breathtaking cover of Leonard Cohen’s famous Chelsea Hotel #2. It was a magical ending to a beautiful evening with the artists giving an honest and reflective view of not only of their human experience but also that of a female experience which is something we see all too little of in popular music.