Big Thief have recently released Capacity, their second full-length LP, on Saddle Creek, but the songs on the album belie a maturity and songcraft light years into the future. On Saturday, Big Thief played many of these new tunes to a sold-out crowd at the Black Cat.
The performance was beautiful, engaging, often funny, and it seemed like more seat-of-your-pants than other Big Thief performances. In fact, as frontwoman Adrienne Lenker pointed out, the band were running without a set list. For most bands this would be daunting, but Adrienne, bassist Max Oleartchik, and drummer James Krivcheniathe moved in synchronization.
Of note was the conspicuous absence of guitarist and longtime creative partner Buck Meeks, but there had been a few dates during their last tour when Big Thief also operated as a thrio.
Adrienne seemed to exude a nervous timidity, but there was a confidence that radiated throughout, especially in songs like “Shark Smile“ and “Humans.” And you know you are witnessing something special when you see the faces of her bandmates visibly light up during performances. These are not only musicians but also fans of the music they are playing.
Songs from the new album seemed to float ethereally but with a weight that seems contradictory. The songs work brilliantly, especially “Lorraine” from debut album Masterpiece and “Pretty Things” and “Mary” from Capacity — with lines like, “And my brain is like an orchestra playing on, insane. Will you love me like you loved me in the January rain?”
Watch Big Thief perform “Mary” live on 89.3 The Current in July 2017 via YouTube:
Even little bumps in the road, like briefly forgetting part of the second verse of “Velvet Ring” were managed with flare, as Adrienne asked the crowd for help singing the verse. And there were a couple of new songs, one in particular titled “Spud Infinity,” that were fun and just as technically brilliant as anything else in their catalog.
Big Thief are currently on tour. Catch them after checking out a list of dates here.
Here are some photos of Big Thief performing at the Black Cat on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.