There are those nights, that I know I’ve written about before but it bears repeating, where luck or fate or divine providence gives you the opportunity to witness something powerful. Maybe I’m being a bit histrionic here, but hearing Amanda Shires for the first time at the 9:30 Club Friday night was something I feel required my presence. I’ve known Shires’ music, but outside of her records and her work with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit I hadn’t seen her perform before — and I am now kicking myself for missing those opportunities.
Amanda Shires’ new album, Take It Like a Man, is full of brilliantly written songs that are personal, intimate, and at the same time universal — in the way all the great classics do. Having been playing the new album on repeat, I was eager to take advantage of the opportunity to see these songs being performed live, and I was in for a treat. Songs like “Empty Cups” and “Fault Lines” are so conversational that you can’t help to get caught up in the words and sentiments expressed. And get caught up in them we did as Amanda performed them early in her set at 9:30 Club on Sept. 9.
In the past few years, Shires joined with country / Americana powerhouses Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, and Natalie Hemby as The Highwomen — a name taken from the supergroup of Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings — and released their critically acclaimed self-titled album in 2019.
Starting her set with a barn burner of a song, “Eve’s Daughter” from 2018’s To The Sunset, Shires and her band hit the ground running following up with “Break Out The Champagne” – Might as well / Break out the champagne / If this’s really how it’s gonna go / Let’s get on with the shitshow / Let’s get on with the show.
Watch the official music video for “Eve’s Daughter” by Amanda Shires on YouTube:
Switching from fiddle to electric guitar, Shires kicked up the dust and got the crowd moving. It’s a special moment when you can feel the energy given off a stage and then being redirected back from the crowd. And you could definitely feel that at the 9:30 Club that night. Even the slower, more soulful and heart-wrenching tunes had an energy that was palpable.
Taking a rare moment away from her fiddle or guitar, Shires commented that she started bringing her own microphone with The Highwomen. “There’s one thing you can do called ‘Walking the Dog,’ ‘Holding the Plate,’ ‘Waving,’ there’s all kinds of them. If you see any more online send them to me, I’m still learning,” she joked.
I believe the last time Amanda Shires performed in DC was back at the Sixth and I Synagogue right before the pandemic, but this felt different. There was a force in these new songs that was hard to let go. She noted that this performance was not only the third show of the tour, but the first time playing at the 9:30 Club under her own name. “You can’t imagine how much this means to me!” She went on to point out, “interestingly enough, I played here with Jason in his early days to about seven people.”
Watch the official live session for “Hawk For The Dove” by Amanda Shires on YouTube:
Slowing things down a step, Shires and guitarist Zach Setchfield made it “electric acoustic,” playing one of the most emotionally moving songs of the night, “Don’t Be Alarmed,” before cranking things up, well, a few notches to play The Highwomen number, “Don’t Call Me,” which had everyone cheering.
This was an incredible night and one that’ll have me thinking back to it for quite a while.
The setlist included:
Break Out the Champagne
Lonely at Night
Here He Comes
Don’t Be Alarmed
Don’t Call Me (The Highwomen song)
Parking Lot Pirouette
Hawk for the Dove
Take It Like a Man
Look Like a Bird
Here are more photos of Amanda Shires performing at the 9:30 Club on Sept. 9, 2022. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.