For their first collaborative effort, Mirah and Thao Nguyen have culled a collection of songs that are both indicative of their makers’ pasts and undeniably trailblazing. And in the live realm, this mix of old and new makes for one killer setlist. With the help of backing bandmembers Alex Guy (strings, synth) and Shawn Berg (drums, percussion), Mirah and Thao dished out a solid hour-plus of tracks from the recently released Thao & Mirah, as well as cuts off each of the ladies’ numerous solo efforts.
Much of what makes Thao and Mirah’s new project greater than the sum of its parts lies in the percussion, which is buoyant in places, strangely syncopated in others, and downright explosive on tracks like “Squareneck” and “Eleven.” And on Monday the duo and their band truly brought this to life. While Berg held her own on the kit, Thao, Mirah, and Guy alternated (and shared) the role of auxiliary percussionist, employing everything from tambourines and bells to pots, chinaware, and knee slaps.
In folkier form (namely, “Little Cup” and “Spaced Out Orbit”), Mirah acted the star, delivering vocals that were both honeyed and filled with empowerment. In turn, Thao took on the roll of the breathy, deep voiced rocker, bringing lovelorn tracks like “Teeth” and “Feet Asleep” to somber, sultry life.
Still, it was the duets that ultimately ruled the night. The sweet and (comparatively) simple “Hallelujah” was an acoustic guitar-driven highlight, featuring Mirah on leads and Thao on breathy, resonating backup. Later, the delightfully whacked-out (and tUnE-YarDs-penned) “Eleven” provided the perfect closer to the set and gave the ladies good reason to get everyone in on the action — including openers Sally Ford. And even though Monday night’s turnout may not have been the most impressive, the show that Thao and Mirah delivered was as earnest and well executed as I could have ever hoped for.