Live Reviews

Laura Veirs @ Spitz, London

19 March 2004


Though perky Seattleite Laura Veirs is two songs into her set, the black expanse of floor in the compact upstairs room at the Spitz is still filled with people sitting cross-legged or lying with their limbs intertwined.

Very few people have felt the need to stand. This is not a slur against Veirs’ music, merely an acknowledgement of the fact that her mellow, country-tinged songs trigger a feeling of relaxation and lazy head-nodding contentment in those listening. Some floor cushions would not have gone amiss, maybe a candle or two. You get the picture.

Hard-core floor-sitters (and there’s always a little huddle of them somewhere) can provoke strong feelings from other gig-goers. Not only do they take up loads of space, but they also exude a kind of cool superiority towards anyone around them who is foolish enough to be a) standing up, and b) seeming in any way moved by the music they paid to see. Yet tonight there was no such animosity evident, in fact the floor-bound audience just added to the intimacy of the experience.

With Katie Melua and her ilk currently casting a shadow over the concept of female singer-songwriting, of the whole girl-and-guitar thing, the release of Veirs’ latest album Carbon Glacier was hailed by certain critics as a mini masterpiece capable of restoring credibility to a genre that had lost its way. This was perhaps a rather overreaching assessment, but it certainly wasn’t completely unfounded. Her songs have a lyrical inventiveness and, as a former geology student, she injects some oddly beautiful, nature-inspired imagery into her music.

Veirs isn’t the most adept of singers but, with her nasal West Coast twang and black-rimmed Woody Allen specs, she is a charismatic, idiosyncratic performer. She trotted through the best bits of Carbon Glacier – Cloud Room a particular highlight – kneeling down to add the odd reverberating effect where necessary.

Though in the past she has played with a larger band, for this gig she was accompanied only by her guitarist, Karl Blau, who seemed to be struggling with an instrument far too small for him. His awkwardness was such that even the completion of a minor solo, was greeted with a warm, if slightly condescending, ripple of applause. A quirk too far maybe? They make an endearing pair but it does leave you wondering what Veirs could achieve in a live setting if her material was to get the backing it deserves.

These are small quibbles: this was a low-key gig but an enjoyable one. And, by the time it came for Veirs to leave the stage, even the mellowest members of the Spitz’s audience were on their feet, applauding.


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