Photo courtesy of Yep Roc Records
Fletcher Opera Theater, Raleigh
Friday, Jan. 16, 2015
On her recordings as a solo artist and with other musical outfits, Aoife O’Donovan
often gets pegged as a folk-leaning songwriter. But live, her voice takes on more power and elevates her status above that of a simple songstress. Friday night’s show in Raleigh proved that point, as she delivered two breathtaking sets in Raleigh that ended all too soon.
Kristin Andreassen was slotted to open the show, but she was unable to perform due to an unexpected bout of laryngitis. The trade-off, then, was a longer performance by O’Donovan, split into halves. Jake Silver and Robin McMillan backed her on bass and drums, respectively, adding expertly timed accents to her strums. The trio's members have known each other for more than a decade, and on stage, that translated into intimate arrangements that stemmed from a deep awareness of each player’s musical style. These weren’t your average hit-the-road hired guns.
The first set featured O’Donovan tearing through tunes like her own “Beekeeper,” Andreassen’s gorgeous “’Simmon” and a few other numbers from her 2013 album, Fossils
. O’Donovan also cut her way through a tense rendition of the traditional murder ballad “Pretty Polly” before diving into a more mellow new number, “Porch Light.” After about a 15-minute break, O’Donovan and company returned to the stage for a second set, kicking off with “Glowing Heart,” also from Fossils
. Two tunes, both covers by other powerful female songwriters, stood out: Joni Mitchell’s quiet and stunning “Amelia”
early in the set, and Bonnie Raitt’s punchy “Love Letter”
at the end.
O’Donovan returned to the stage for a single encore—“In a Sentimental Mood,” the jazz standard written by Duke Ellington in Durham in 1935. Her band stayed backstage as she toed her way to the very front of the Fletcher’s stage, singing the tender song without amplification. It was here that O’Donovan unleashed her full power: Every person in the audience seemed captivated as she floated through the haunting melody. Enthusiastic applause broke the magic spell of silence as she finished, closing a performance that, with stellar talent and a beautiful venue, made for an unforgettable evening.