Big Thief in Vicar Street, Dublin, on Tuesday 21st May 2019
“Maybe it will just be in tune magically,” Adrianne Lenker decides as she straps on her acoustic guitar for Cattails in the latter stages of Big Thief’s set. It was, and so was everything else. Vicar Street, the crowd, was buzzing. The songs were unplanned; not tethered to any traditional sense of a running order. The band was channelling Crazy Horse, when they felt like it, alongside the more intimate, softly administered moments of the evening. It didn’t seem like it was going to play out that way when Lenker took her place amongst the vases of flowers that lined the stage and opened alone with the delicate folk of Orange.
The band released their third album ‘U.F.O.F.’ earlier this month, but it doesn’t dominate tonight’s selection. There’s room even for some fresh material. Forgotten Eyes gets off to a faltering start. “I don’t wanna play it…actually I do wanna play it, but I wanna play it different,” Lenker tells the band, who wind it up once again, more to her liking. “Another brand, brand, brand new song” is a more downbeat trip, whispers of sleep paralysis and shadow, but slotted in between Paul and Mythological Beauty it all makes sense.
The band is close physically as well as musically, all huddled into the centre stage. When guitarist Buck Meek sings one, Lenker and bassist Max Oleartchik sit down in the darkness until he’s done. “Will we do a big one or a small one?” Meek asks them.”Alright, a big one!” counters Lenker, before offering up a fine Masterpiece. “I need a little reset here” she admits at one point. “I can’t actually tell what I feel like playing right now.” The crowd takes that as their cue to shout out requests, but Lenker just plays what she feels once more, setlist obsolete, if it ever even existed.
When the set ends, and Enya’s Orinoco Flow blasts out over the PA, no one in the crowd makes a move to leave. This seems as much a part of the set as everything that went before – the expectation of an encore that never comes. Eventually a roadie comes out and unplugs a lead, a token gesture. Go home. But that’s okay. Sometimes enough is enough. Sometimes you end up at one of those gigs, where it all comes together.
Sometimes everything is just in tune, magically.