Marissa Nadler


I have to confess, there was a period where I fell out of love with Marissa Nadler. I was pretty obsessed with her 2009 album Little Hells which, in my eyes, is about as perfect as a singer songwriter album can possibly be. Then she released a couple of so-so albums over the next few years that lost my interest, not that they were necessarily bad albums, they just weren’t Little Hells, so I couldn’t get on with them properly. I think, gasp, I may not even have listened to one of them at all. Then at the start of this year she released July to very favourable reviews, and lo and behold it was as gorgeous as Little Hells and all was right with the world once more.

Which is just as well, as tonight she gives nearly the entirety of July an airing with scant regard for her back catalogue. The brilliant Soup Kitchen basement is perfect for her brand of intimate, haunting songs, and the place is reasonably full which she beams with appreciation at half way through the gig, ‘thanks for coming to this hot room and listening so attentively’ she says, to more of the polite applause that has rippled throughout the room all evening. She has a simple set up on stage, just herself and an array of acoustic guitars (including a twelve string guitar which she wields with impressive dexterity during an extended ‘Dead City Emily’), and a cellist who also uses a few electronics to loop and distort her beautiful strings. This sparse set up makes the gig seem like it’s in my front room, just the two of them playing for me, and it’s impossible not to get completely lost in each and every song, such is the intensity and passion of Nadler’s performance – you get the feeling she’s living these tales of heartbreak and loss every night of her life.

And that voice. Woah, what a voice. It’s never over stretched, never what you would call powerful, but it’s absolutely note for note perfect, ethereal, floating above the crowd and hanging in the reverent silence of the crowd. On ‘Firecracker’, the opening lines sends shivers down my spine and goosebumps crawl across my skin despite the heat in the room, it’s magnificent.  For a woman who pretty much just plays songs on an acoustic guitar, it could have been a one paced gig, but little moments like the distortion heavy ending to ‘Dead City Emily’ that fades into the gentle plucked ‘Firecracker’, and the underlying menace of the unsettling ‘We Are Coming Back’ makes sure there’s just enough variety to always keep me interested in what’s happening on stage. She admits that she’s no good at stage banter, but raises smiles across the room when she plays a song from her 2004 debut album Ballads Of Living And Dying, proclaiming that she was a ‘goth-y young one back then’, before departing the stage and returning solo to run through ‘Holiday In’ and a cover of a band I confess to never having heard of before. It was a wonderful night of special music, one that made me glad acts like Nadler can still come over to little ol’ Manchester, draw a decent crowd and send everyone away feeling warm inside. Firmly back in love with her, and this time it’s for good.

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