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Mirah, free show in DC this weekend

Mirah, free show in DC this weekend
May 25, 2023 03:36PM
The great indie-folk singer-songwriter Mirah is doing a free Millennium Stage show this Saturday in Washington. I've written a lot about her on this site and would strongly endorse checking her out if schedules permit.

Re: Mirah, free show in DC this weekend
May 31, 2023 10:29AM
Millennium Stage, Kennedy Center, Washington DC, May 28, 2023

Over the years, I’ve seen indie folk songwriter Mirah in venues ranging from rock clubs to outdoor festivals to grotty VFW halls to the homes of fans, but never anyplace as genteel as the Kennedy Center.

Accompanied by Maia MacDonald on electric bass and harpist Aviva Jaye, Mirah’s setlist was a rushed 60 minutes to fit the Millennium Stage format, and she was less chatty than she typically is, but she was as winning and mesmerizing a live performer as ever.

After opening with “Bones & Skin” from 2009’s (a)Spera she mostly focused on 2018’s Understanding and 2014’s Changing Light, each of which was strongly featured in a set that spotlighted mostly recent and mid-period material. Understanding, to my mind, is not one of the strongest Mirah albums; the themes about the overload of digital data (“Information”) and navigating interpersonal family relationships (“Energy” and “Blinded By the Pretty Light”) don’t have the depth of some of her best work. They’re good songs, no doubt, but they somehow haven’t stuck in the same way in my mind. However, “Gold Rush” from Changing Light is one of her best compositions in many years; extending the metaphor associated with Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush,” it’s a typically lyrical and provocative exploration of life and love in an ecosystem riven by climate disaster.

Mirah did well in a setting that can sometimes be very sterile, the cavernous Millennium Stage at Kennedy Center, where it’s a safe bet that the vast majority of the audience members had never heard her music. There were clearly some fans there; they could be identified by their rapt attention and mouths moving with the lyrics, but most of the attendees were likely tourists visiting the Kennedy Center attracted by a free show. In that context, a song like C’Mon Miracle’s “We’re Both So Sorry” began surprisingly daintily given its boldly sexual lines for a daytime all-ages show with lots of kids, before she cut loose in the closing wailing chorus.

I’ve written many, many words about Mirah over the course of her career; having seen her in a variety of contexts I was most intrigued by the interplay of Mirah’s fingerpicked guitar and Aviva Jaye's harp. The way they built their strings around the lilting tango influences of “Dogs of BA” was glorious; Mirah typically works on a tight budget and it was a rare treat to see her with the sound and lights and additional instrumentation of a Kennedy Center performance, which you can all enjoy from the comfort of your own laptops.

In a truncated 12-song set like the one at the Millennium Stage, there were interesting omissions. She did two songs from 2002’s Advisory Committee, one of her best-loved records, but not “Cold Cold Water” or “Apples in the Trees,” and she did nothing from You Think It’s Like This But Really It’s Like This, which got a deluxe twentieth-anniversary reissue with a full cover album in 2020, to deserved acclaim in the usual channels. From her collaborative album with Thao Nguyen in 2011 she did “Hallelujah” (not a Leonard Cohen song, but informed by it, in the same way that “Gold Rush” is informed by Neil Young), but without the chittering percussion that Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards had added. Given Thao’s roots in the DC area, it was a nice touch. Ironically, the last time I had seen Thao was in the same venue at the Millennium Stage.

She didn’t talk much, but Mirah did thank the audience and the Kennedy Center profusely. She said it was only her eighth show since the start of the pandemic. (I probably saw one of her final shows before the pandemic, a house show in November 2019 when her newborn was being babysat by the hosts.) It’s impossible to fully tell how hundreds of audience members in a sedate concert hall reacted to Mirah’s music, but from what I saw, her joy and charisma as a performer, and the quiet power of her intimate songs, more than won the audience over.

Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 06/01/2023 10:53AM by zwirnm.
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