Though musicians carry the emotions to be able to write music, they don’t always show it when they’re touring, as if to detach themselves from the songs they’re singing. This is not the case with Brooklyn-based band Big Thief. From the beginning of their set, lead singer/guitarist Adrianne Lenker had the audience knowing this was more than just a sequence of songs. Opening with two new solo originals, Lenker quieted the audience and set up the course of the evening, a true roller coaster of frequencies and emotions. Lenker passionately talked about the two openers (Twain and Palehound), establishing the communal aspect of the night, an element usually lacking from the repetition of touring.
Following the mini acoustic set, the band launched into songs off their two albums Capacity, their latest release, and Masterpiece. Songs like “Paul” had the audience swaying with the rhythm of the chorus: “I’ll be your morning bright goodnight shadow machine, I’ll be your record player baby if you know what I mean, I’ll be your real tough cookie with the whiskey breath, I’ll be a killer and a thriller and the cause of our death.” There is such an importance to the rhythm of Big Thief, as the band positions themselves in a sort of semi circle with the drummer on the left and the bassist in the middle, to really be able to vibe off each others’ patterns and move as a unit. There is a sense of both the structure of the songs and the fluidity of a live performance, being able to go where the song takes them.
A crowd favorite came with one of the singles off of their new record, “Mythological Beauty,” where the rhythm section extended the intro before the guitar riff long enough to have everyone already dancing in time for the words. Lenker’s vocal range is strongly showcased on this tune, from the sultry, low verses to the smooth high notes of the chorus as it builds to heartbreaking belting, as if the words and melody exhibit the emotion of the song. Collings guitar in hand, Lenker kept the set moving in such a groove with her folk-style picking in tandem with the steady yet intricate rhythm of Max Oleartchick and James Krivchenia. There’s something comforting about the repetition of the chorus that had everyone swaying together: “you’re all caught up inside, but you know the way.”
These words seemed to encompass some of Lenker’s between-song commentary, talking about the hardships of touring though there is beauty in it. Never have I seen a musician be so open with an audience and it made the performance personal and unforgettable.
The band closed out the show with a new song called “Terminal,” and bid everyone good night, though the Boston audience had not had enough of Big Thief. Lenker came back out to play “Lorraine” and “Pretty Things” solo, an incredible ending to an emotional night of quiet folk songs to louder alternative rock songs. And with “Don’t take me for a fool, there’s a woman inside of me, there’s one inside of you, too and she don’t always do pretty things,” the Big Thief set was over, leaving everyone with an excess of feelings, as the show itself gave us an inside look into the lyrics and lives of the members and the importance of emotion through music.