Anaïs Mitchell in Concert
20:00 (20th August)
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 stars)
This concert was far from what I had originally expected. Firstly, I did not expect there to be an opening act which in this case was a young musician called Carsie Blanton, whose music I enjoyed very much. All of the songs were different in either subject or energy and it was frankly amazing how many sounds she managed to get out of her guitar. The songs seemed to reflect her own personality and it would be hard to sum up any of them in one word. At one point during her song, ‘Fat and Happy,’ she asked the audience to sing along and took out a kazoo and played it over the top of her guitar. During, ‘Jacket’ she stopped the intro in order to explain what a Swiffer is (a type of mop). It was moments like these that connected her to the audience and made her very likeable and approachable. Blanton managed to link her set list with anecdotes and by being herself which let you appreciate her music within the context that she had written it. Her songs were clever and often had a ‘stream of consciousness’ feel to them, but you can tell that they were written from the heart, and because they are so varied, you are just constantly amazed. A song that is worth mentioning is one called, ‘So Long New Orleans’. This song manages to encapsulate the feeling of homesickness and everyone who has ever left something behind will be touched by this it. ‘American Kid’ is one of the most honest and depressing songs I have ever heard even though it is very upbeat. It describes the American political situation perfectly and is truly a testament of how music can not only be about anything but also how powerful it can be. Carsie Blanton described New Orleans ‘creepy and inspiring’, and you can tell how much the city has informed her music because if anything Blanton’s music is the New Orleans of modern music, in the very best sense. It is beautifully eclectic, and her performance was very fun to watch.
Anaïs Mitchell’s music is also unique in its own way and contrasted nicely to Carsie Blanton’s. Mitchell’s music is perhaps more noticeably folk, and makes you feel like you should be watching a black and white film at the same time. The songs perhaps tell more of a story and it seems like they are part of a larger story. The tuning between songs did mean that it ran less smoothly than Blanton’s set, and when it took too long you could tell that maybe there was perhaps a little panic as Mitchell tried to talk simultaneously. There were a couple of songs from Hadestown – her Tony award winning musical – but the setlist was mostly taken from her work independent from the musical, with the theme of nature running through many of them. It was a little less clear what the songs were about at times, but felt quite eerie and supernatural in the way that they sounded, but in that case you have to wonder whether it’s more important that you understand what is being said or how they made you feel.
The pair stayed away from love songs, and whilst there were a couple, they were different and original to the point where they were almost unrecognisable as such. Each had something new to say and said in a way that was incredibly interesting. They had a unique style which complimented each other whilst simultaneously contrasting. Both used acoustic
guitars but since Anaïs Mitchell had an extra guitar player with her, it allowed her music to occasionally have a bit more depth which suited the performance in the same way that Carsie Blanton’s worked perfectly with just her singing along to her guitar. It was political without being noticeably political, but they did hold a candle to the situation in America and did it so tactfully and logically like that even the most right-wing audience member would not be able to disagree with them. The last song that they sang together was called ‘Deportees’, a protest song about Mexican immigrants fleeing a plane crash in the 1940s and was incredibly moving to the point where there was a hush in the auditorium, and I doubt that there was a dry eye.
This isn’t the type of music that you dance to, you have to sit and let it wash over you. It’s about how it makes you feel more than anything else, and your mind could wander without missing any of the music. The songs encourage feeling and allow your imagination to run away from you.
Katerina Partolina Schwartz (Twitter: @katpschwartz)