LIVE REVIEW: Eleanor Friedberger @ The Famous Spiegeltent, Sydney (28/01/12)

written by Chris Familton

Eleanor Friedberger only recently stepped out from her regular role in The Fiery Furnaces with last years solo debut Last Summer yet there were no solo nerves evident when she stepped into the late afternoon light of the Spiegeltent stage. Not even a delayed start due to a malfunctioning guitar lead could unsettle her as she set about showcasing some of the highlights of the aforementioned LP alongside some themed covers and dips into Furnaces territory.

My Mistakes set the mood early with its relationship dissecting lyrics overflowing with delightful turns of phrase and clever wordplay. Friedberger’s strength lies in her ability to shape standard song fare into hyper-observant critiques of life and quirky stories of people and places. She balanced those lyrical abilities with her way with melody that sounds both unique and familiar. On songs like Heaven and the brilliant Inn of The Seventh Ray she effortlessly guided jerky, syncopated verses into rolling, hummable choruses that hung in the Spiegeltent air.

With only the one album under her belt Friedberger fleshed her set out with a trio of Dallas, Texas themed covers. Spoon’s Trouble Comes Running, Buddy Holly’s Dearest and Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s Dallas were all given the Friedberger treatment and it was fascinating how such disparate songs could sound so much like her own songs. Between songs there were some amusing insights into their inspiration and meaning alongside tales of an abandoned military base in Sydney, singing on a ferry and her relationship with her manager. What made this performance so endearing was Friedberger’s casual approach (complete with fluffed chords) and lack of pretentiousness when her songs could easily lend themselves to arch literary posturing. She left us with The Fiery Furnaces’ Tropical Ice-Land proving her solo work is easily a match for her greatest moments in that band.

this review was first published in The Drum Media

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