red lights


The endearing Martha

Martha Wainwright
Pabst Theatre
Milwaukee, WI
June 2, 2005
Martha Wainwright Martha Wainwright

Story and photos by Matt Schwenke

The balconies were closed off and the bars were stocked full of $2.50 tall boys of PBR at the Pabst Theatre for an intimate night with Martha Wainwright. The show was also broadcast live on the radio.Martha Wainwright Not letting the radio broadcast change her show, Wainwright chatted it up with the crowd and still played "Bloody Mother F***ing A**hole"-- a not-so-radio-friendly tune from her self-titled album released earlier this year. With a voice that is as versatile and powerful as her brother Rufus', Martha's blend of folk peppered with a little country and a little classical lands her somewhere between Edie Brickell and Ani DiFranco, only mellower. The laid-back tempo of "These Flowers" showcased the bands attention to detail in songwriting with interesting vocal phrasings and well-placed swells in volume. In the more driving "This Life," Wainwright sang with a growing intensity that held sway over a country sound that had a shuffling rhythm.
With a precision equal to that in their calmer tunes, the drums and bass helped push Wainwright's fiery vocals on "Ball & Chain" toward a powerful ending. Though the music was almost flawless, Wainwright did stop one song after forgetting a a line in the lyrics. After apologizing a few times, the band started over and Wainwright laughed through a few lines before getting back on track. Then there were the arguably unprofessional long pauses as Wainwright went through all sorts of alternate tunings and another long pause as she waited for a guitar pick from a fan in the crowd-- apparently she did not have another one nearby. While some of Wainwright's banter was a bit aloof and her stage presence a little awkward at times, the stories were ultimately endearing and the music was always focused and naturally raw with the lack of elctronica. In a tribute to Leonard Cohen, Wainwright was especially magnificent with her acoustic guitar and voice in a unique rendition of the poetic "Tower of Song".

Martha Wainwright

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