The first time I saw Laura Veirs play was at The Maze when “Carbon Glacier” had only been in the shops a little while and a buzz was just starting to be heard around mention of her name. I’d bought the record almost as soon as it came out on the strength of a newspaper review, and hadn’t been disappointed; that it was felt by many to be the record of the year (2004?) isn’t or wasn’t surprising. Anyways, the first time I saw Laura Veirs play, not too many people had heard of her, and although there was a respectable sized audience there, I was able to say hello to her before the gig as she sat quietly in the corner of the room, and we had a chat for a little while.
The second time I saw Laura Veirs play was also at The Maze. I have no idea when it was, but I do know that it was another excellent show. There were more people there, but it wasn’t full. That time she'd been supported by one other musician on voice and guitar, and the sound of both had been filled out by some of that fancy electronic recording and looping gadgetry that lets you accompany yourself more than once, so one person can end up sounding like a whole group...... oh, I don't know how to describe it, it's all too technologistical for me ......
The third time I saw Laura Veirs play was also also at The Maze, and it was last night. The place was full. Very full. I wasn’t the only person to express surprise that she still plays such a small venue, where 150 or so is a a packed house, but on reflection I’m not complaining, because the intimacy of the place is ideal for her. She’s warm and chatty, and I’d rather see her there, where people listen and feel a part of something, rather than at somewhere like The Rescue Rooms, where half the time people just go because they’ve got nothing better to do.
Veirs’s two most recent records -- "Year of Meteors" & "Saltbreaker" -- came out while I was in China, and I’ve only recently been able to catch up on them, along with lots of other catching up I’ve been trying to do. It strikes me that “Saltbreaker” is the stronger of the two, and not far off the quality of “Carbon Glacier”.
But she wasn’t really plugging a record at this show. She didn't even have CDs for sale, because she'd sold out and was waiting for fresh supplies. She was just having a good time, playing solo, and playing songs from wherever the songs happened to come from. At one point she asked if there were any requests, and I did something I almost never do, which is shout out. And she played my request – “Rapture” is one of my favourite songs of all time. [Listen] No doubt.
The really great thing about this show was how Veirs has developed as a stage presence. She’s so relaxed now, so chatty and informal. She seemed really happy, happy to be there and happy to be playing. Her looping equipment (it must have a technical name; what is it?) fucked up during the first two songs, and she even managed to enjoy and make entertaining having to stop mid-song and then, before starting again, asking the audience where she’d got to before she’d had to break off. She was forced to play the rest of the show without the aid of any gadgetry to enhance the songs, and in some ways it was fortuitous. We got Laura Veirs unplugged, and she pulled it off perfectly, just a woman, her wonderful voice, great songs, and a guitar -- except for two songs, where the guitar was replaced by a banjo.
And being replaced by a banjo reminds me of something I meant to say, but I’ll save it for another day.