Eleanor Friedberger At Resident, Tuesday September 25th 2018
Eleanor Friedberger sings with a great seriousness, and this gives even more precision to her songs,… while creating an atmosphere which has the right balance between stylish austerity and electro-pop fantasy, her voice resonates over her songs with a commanding tone combined with a humble presence. She is not the type to bury her lyrics under layers of loud music, why would she hide her words? She is a true storyteller and she pronounces her words distinctively as if she was sharing intimate details about her life without revealing too much at first. Ironically, ‘Let me forget the words’ was the first line she sang.
Eleanor Friedberger has been on tour for a while and, last night, she had a stop at Resident, a cozy club downtown Los Angeles, where she played a set of songs from her new album ‘Rebound’, mixed with older ones from her 3 previous releases. Standing tall and wearing a leather jacket and a pair of white jeans cartoon-painted with a Rolling Stones tongue and goggling eyes, she started right away with ‘My Jesus Phase’, the opener of ‘Rebound’, a relatively repetitive song about being alone in a Galaxy bar, while bringing melancholic guitar work and echoes of the genesis of her album. If you read anything about ‘Rebound’, you will learn that Eleanor went to Greece for a month two years ago, spending time in a bar, an ‘80s goth disco’ place called Rebound. Eleanor has described the adventure ‘alienating and exhilarating’, and the album, which deals with themes of loneliness, miscommunication, and isolation, was born out of this experience.
‘The Letter’ then ‘Everything’ brought more hooks and pretty electric guitar works, answering Eleanor’s determined and restrained delivery and being the most aggressive she will be all night… ‘I want everything to go my way’, she crooned. On older work such as ‘When I Knew’, her melodies shone very bright, while plenty of concrete details seemed to habit the songs, painting a palpable atmosphere rather than a direct meaning. I knew very little about Eleanor Friedberger’s music before last night, but there is no doubt that her sonic and lyrical universe was carrying a wide span of emotions and ideas, inviting the audience to listen.
And the crowd did listen, captivated by her grave tone, and getting all-ears during her very rare talking between songs. She told us a few tour misadventures: ‘We were in a motel and someone got shot,… I saw the weapon, that was something different… We also have a serious a spider bite among us’.
The guitars got bluesy on ‘Does Turquoise Work’ and Pill’s saxophonist (the band which had opened the night), joined her trio of excellent musicians for a few songs as if he were a member of the E-street band. Even though her new album is filled with synthesizers, there were none on stage, just the traditional guitar-bass-drums combination, plus the occasional sax, but Eleanor dropped her guitar for many songs, breaking up her ‘folk-singer’ image, and crooning with the mic in one hand.
If ‘Make Me a Song’ sounded more playful, her songs had their heavy load of broken hearts, although the music sounded uplifting in a contemplative kind of way, with many impressionist touches, clip-memories, and names of locations, town, people,… and even text messages… She had ‘advertised’ her song ‘Are We Good?’ (which is written using text messages she really received from people she had relationships with) on her homemade shirt, with a ‘Good’ in the front and a ‘Bad’ in the back.
With the same charm and confidence she had exulted all night, Eleanor explained to us there was no need for a phony encore – they actually played one, without leaving the stage. This is how direct she was, and she didn’t need much talking to communicate with the crowd through her conversational yet poetic lyrics, even getting into a Lou-Reed-spoken-word mode during her last song ‘Roosevelt Island’ … Alienation, miscommunication, and disorientation may be the themes of her narrative poetry, but the crowd only felt the exhilarating side of her Greek-inspiration musical adventure.
My Jesus Phase
When I Knew
Does Turquoise Work?
Inn of the 7thRay
In Between Stars
Make Me A Song
Are We Good?
Stare at the Sun