It’s not difficult to understand the complete silence that has fallen over the Brighton Dome, as Joanna Newsom’s fans have been kept waiting for three years since her last live performance. Now, they hang on her every breath as she takes her natural place at her harp, on the second night of a new world tour.
Tracks from Newsom’s latest album, ‘Divers’, feature heavily in the set, and the stunning title track, as well as ‘Leaving The City’ and the playful ‘Sapokanikan’ shine between older favourites. One of these, ‘Monkey and Bear’, is a breathtaking reminder of Newsom’s masterful craft with songwriting. The majority of her songs defy traditional structure, yet the absence of a definitive chorus and verse only leads the listener deeper into the stories she weaves. Her lyrics pour forth so organically that you become lost in her whimsical world, and begin to wonder how exactly they were written to begin with. At over nine minutes long, ‘Monkey and Bear’ is a spectacle more than a song, and one that justifies the sighs, tears and outbursts of “you’re a genius” from respective audience members.
Yet despite the ethereal prowess of Newsom’s music, the humble commendations she gives to members of her band – whose own upcoming Komedia gig she promotes on more than one occasion – and the designer of her Snow White-esque gown lends her a warmth that is so often absent onstage.
Accompanied by multi-instrumentalists Ryan Francesconi, Mirabai Peart and her own brother, Pete – who all drift from one instrument to the next during the set – Newsom commands an effortless performance that is ultimately met with a standing ovation and undying applause. Taking the less than subtle hint, Newsom floats back onstage to deliver an encore as audience members offer grateful screams of “thank you”. It is as if her presence alone is a gift, and the granting of a few more songs a precious rarity.
As the only solo performance of the night, ‘Pin-light Bent’ harks back to the Joanna of old, whose harp would be her only accompaniment onstage. Her band join her for the closing number, ‘Peach, Plum, Pear’, which sounds as fresh as it did back in 2004. Departing the stage with a humble wave, Joanna Newsom leaves behind her a second standing ovation and an audience gushing with respect and renewed adoration. Hold onto your hearts, world.