Clare & the Reasons are Clare Muldaur on vocals and guitar (and occasional kazoo) and a string trio (violin, viola, cello) led by Olivier Manchon, who also played a saw, bass guitar, metallophone, recorder, and various sampled percussion, piano, and electronic parts; all of the Reasons also sang backing vocals. They played a wonderfully whimsical and sweet set of "chamber art-pop", for lack of a better term, showing influences from classical, folk, and pop. The songs were in turns happy, wistful, and comical, and always delightful—a good example was "Can Your Car Do That? Well I Don't Think So", which described the rather unfortunate condition of Clare's barely-functioning yet clearly beloved vehicle. There were several funny moments during the set, such as when Clare asked the audience for a typical Seattle insult to use in the song "Better Without You": someone shouted "Go back to California!" and she innocently replied "We're from New York!" She observed after one song, "Olivier, I liked your solo... [the audience's] inner indie rock won't let them clap," whereupon the audience clapped for anything Olivier did in the following song. Clare had a pretty, sweet voice, and the Reasons were all clearly very talented musicians. I was already really enjoying the set when Clare introduced the final song saying, "By the way this song you know and you love, but maybe you don't know you love," and the song turned out to be a cover of "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." That's when I knew I'd fallen in love with the band. Needless to say, I'll be watching out for more from them.
My Brightest Diamond is a project of Shara Worden, a singer and multi-instrumentalist (playing various guitars, a thumb piano, and a sampler/drum machine in this concert); she was backed up by the Reasons for this show. Besides sharing the backing band, My Brightest Diamond also shared with Clare the eclectic musical mix of classical, folk, and pop influences, though My Brightest Diamond was more on the side of rock than pop. The two groups differed in intensity, however: where Clare was whimsical and wistful, My Brightest Diamond was more likely to be haunting and harrowing. There was room for humor in My Brightest Diamond's music and show, such as when Olivier was called upon to do a simple magic trick, and lightness of spirit too, such as the sing-along encore featuring Shara on ukelele and Clare rejoining the Reasons for the a capella backup. Nevertheless, I had an image of My Brightest Diamond as a pretty young woman with a fancy silver knife, with the question whether she will hand the knife to you solemnly or sweetly stab you in the heart. Such a fairy-tale image seems appropriate for an artist who composed a song, "At the Top of the World", inspired by George MacDonald's novel At the Back of the North Wind—a tale Shara summarized before the song, accompanied by sound effects provided by the Reasons. The combination of Shara's strong clear voice, haunting lyrics, and beautiful music made for a powerful concert, and I'm glad that I did not miss this one.
Unfortunately, because I was manning the KEXP promotion table, I was at the back of the theater and did not take any photos of the show, as I knew from past experience that I was too far away to get anything worthwhile. Hopefully next time these bands come around, I'll be up close.
I still have a review to write for last night's Yeasayer and Icy Demons show at Neumos, but I probably won't get to it before seeing Minus the Bear, Annuals, and Helms Alee at the Showbox at the Market tomorrow night. Still on my calendar for December is Hotels, with Tea for Julie headlining, at the Comet Tavern on Sunday Dec 7, and I might go see Tuatara at Neumos on Wednesday Dec 10. December's really busy so that's probably it for the year, but I'm already looking forward to what next year will bring.