Review: Anais Mitchell at the Sugar ClubTweet
Following a battle with the elements that involved getting drenched by the rain and splashed on by passing buses, I arrived up to the Sugar Club on Thursday night feeling somewhat downtrodden and cold. However, after a friendly greeting from staff, I was ushered into the atmospheric, candle-lit main room. I scooched into the comfy alcove seating and my spirits were swiftly on the rise again. I had read the reviews, seen the Bon Iver You Tube covers and was looking forward to seeing what Anais Mitchell’s acclaimed live show had to offer.
Taking over from the support act Rachel Ries, Anais and the Young Man band slipped on to the stage without a word to the crowd. They opened the set with Ships and Dying Day from her most recent offering:- ‘Young Man in America’. Mitchell’s voice is soft and sweet with raspy interludes and at times could be likened to Martha Wainwright or the McGarrigle sisters. The first part of the set was more reserved and distanced from the audience, although once they got into their stride with Young Man in America it was all about to change. The title track from the new album was one of the bands most energetic performances with soaring harmonies and a gradual swell. A gentle, vulnerable performance of Coming Down with an intro on keys, by band member Rachel, was a contrasting follow up.
Midway through the gig Anais gave the band a break so she could play on her ‘lonesome’. She has attracted a loyal following over the years. Many Irish members of her fanbase were in attendance and jumped at the opportunity to request songs when she asked for suggestions. This was a nice touch that pulled up some random results from her back catalogue including my personal favourite of the night; 1984 which she says stemmed from her period of writing while the Bush administration was still in power in the US. This was era which gave her a “ton of songs” she jokes. Other requests included an unrehearsed Paul Simon cover and a song she wrote for Leonard Cohen that she previously presented to the legendary singer via You Tube. (‘dear l cohen please come for dinner’ is the title if you feel like looking it up)
The encore featured tracks:- Why We Build The Wall and I Raise My Cup to Him from her folk opera ‘Hadestown’, both were strong performances. Anais then shared a story from her last visit to Dublin. A post-gig hunt for food led her in the direction of the canal where she ended up eating fish and chips, drinking wine and playing music till the early hours of the morning, a memory she fondly relays. She obviously had great expectations that this experience would be repeated until a punter reminded her we had fallen victim to a torrential downpour. Hopefully, the next time she brings her eclectic band and show back to Dublin, the rain will have stopped so we can all enjoy an impromptu performance from the Young Man Band on the banks of the canal.