The contemporary music cognoscenti came out in force for this concert featuring the indie star of the moment, Adrianne Lenker. Lenker, a critical favorite at two Condé Nast publications — the New Yorker and Pitchfork.com — carries her niche popularity lightly, performing in street clothes with a single acoustic guitar while occasionally sipping from a ceramic coffee mug. She’s got a fantastic backstory that’s all kinds of colorful, but what matters here and now is that she’s a remarkable songwriter and a riveting performer, innovative and quirky yet with broad appeal. Lenker took the material for Wednesday night’s set from her 2020 solo record songs and an upcoming Big Thief album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, scheduled for release in early 2022.
Soft-spoken in the extreme, Lenker plays and sings seated. Her commitment to the music is visible in her posture. She cradles her guitar as though it were a cello and plucks it like a harp. Her high, slightly adenoidal voice threads through the weft of tones she weaves with her hands. Her songs tell stories and paint pictures in poetic phrases that cluster around the second person singular — the universal muse known as “you.”
Highlights of the lengthy set included the opener, “not a lot, just forever,” a sharply observed breakup song that tells you everything you need to know about Lenker as a writer — she’s bold, original, and not interested in small talk. Having set this intimate tone, Lenker went further in “ingydar.” The title refers to a dying horse named “ingydar,” and the lyric stamps that image onto a frank acknowledgment of time passing in a relationship. The line “six years in, no baby” reveals one way to measure that time.
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You could leave your earplugs at home for this show. Lenker tunes her instrument on stage, and she prefers the houselights part way up, the better to experience the rapt attention paid by her fans. Lenker’s gestalt came fully together on “anything.” The “you” she addressed could have been the audience, and many people seemed to know the lyrics.
I don’t want to be owner of your fantasy
I just want to be part of your family
And I don’t want to talk about anything
I don’t want to talk about anything
I want to kiss, kiss your eyes again
Want to witness your eyes looking.
Shout out to Ellen Kempner for her tight opening set and promoter Smart Alec for bringing this memorable show to the Lobero.