As you may or may not know, Martha Wainwright is the sister of the multi talented musician Rufus Wainwright and daughter of quirky troubadour Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle of the McGarrigle Sisters. Coming from such a musical family probably raises the expectations of critics and potential fans but at the same time might be the only reason their paths initially cross. My first introduction to Martha and her music was in fact during her opening set for her more famous brother. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with this but I couldn’t help feeling that she had cheated a little. She was playing to a sold-out crowd without having to really work for it and, what’s worse, I didn’t really like her.
The audience mass of this show seemed more suitable. The twenty-five of us scooted up close as the first song began and tried to ignore the increasingly noisy barflies. Martha has an amazingly unique and beautiful voice and is a good guitar player as well. My problem is with her lyrics and her songwriting in general. I should add that some of my friends really like her, and there were definitely some hardcore fans in attendance, but I wasn’t in agreement with them. She writes songs called "Bloody Motherfucking Asshole," and repeats words over and over until you forget what they originally even meant. Her progressions are entirely predictable and she flashed her stuff at the audience at least three times (please note this would not always be in the negative column). On the plus side, she was very witty and funny, and this almost made up for everything else.
Ed Harcourt is English and he talks with an accent, which is very cute. I really want to have an English accent. He had some great press with the release of his first album, Here Be Monsters, and then with last year’s From Every Sphere, both of which were written and performed almost entirely by him. This is impressive given the sonic depth and multi-instrumental skills necessary for such a feat. Seeing him play solo was great and his voice sounded just as heavenly as it does on album. I hate to compare yet another person to Jeff Buckley, but there were definitely moments that deserve it. He’s the only person I’ve ever seen play a right hand guitar left handed and he did it very well. Unfortunately, due to mic problems, his piano sounded like it was under water, but still his talent was apparent regardless. His apparent lack of sleep didn’t stop him from coming back on stage for an encore of requests.
With so few people in attendance, the setting was very intimate, and although this might seem like a good thing, a select few audience members almost ruined it. They sat up front and talked during my favorite songs or sat by the bar and talked the whole time. Ed commented and made jokes but never lost his cool, which I admired. You could tell they were just there for the dancing afterwards or wanted to get away from the suburbs for some Friday night action. Usually this type seems to stay upstairs with the rest of the fake- tanned, Forever 21 skanks, but for some reason tonight they were everywhere. Thankfully the music was good enough to make this less of an issue. Ed Harcourt, you are wicked awesome.