Martha Wainwright @ City Varieties, 27/1/17

Martha Wainwright is exceptional in the world of music. Performing since childhood with her parents Loudon Wainwright and Kate McGarrigle, there was undoubtedly a pressure for Martha to pursue a musical career. In the twelve short years since the release of her eponymous debut album, she has cemented her place in the Wainwright dynasty, defiantly holding her own with her father, mother and brother Rufus.

As proof of her strength of character, Wainwright strides onstage at City Varieties in a grey boilersuit, accessorised with an ovaries necklace, showing solidarity with the recent worldwide Women’s March. She takes her battle stance, legs apart and firmly rooted in the floor.

As soon as the first song starts, the audience are hushed by her powerful presence and even more powerful voice. On record, Wainwright’s voice is versatile and unique. In a live setting, it is commanding, controlled, and her primary weapon. As she croons songs from her most recent album, Goodnight City, she simultaneously reveals her vulnerability and defends it, building glass walls around her most sensitive subject matter. On those songs written about her children, she quips, “it’s nice to have a nice subject to talk about in songs”; this vague and yet gently revealing statement is characteristic of Wainwright’s music: she wants you to see, but not too much.

Wainwright graced us with performances of some songs from her first album: ‘G.P.T’, ‘These Flowers’ and ‘When The Day Is Short’ to name a few, although ‘Bloody Motherfucking Asshole’ was noticeably lacking. For her encore, she sang Leonard Cohen’s ‘Chelsea Hotel #2’ and her mother’s song ‘Proserpina’, both heartfelt renditions that provided the perfect ending to a fairly perfect set. With the final two songs, it becme clear that Wainwright is truly one of the last troubadours, of the ilk of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, the last of those musicians that wear their hearts on their sleeves for a living and sing their thoughts with an acoustic guitar.

Jemima Skala

(Image: Clash Music)

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