Margaret Glaspy at Swedish American Hall – September 29, 2018

Welcome to another episode of Girlbandgeek blog in which I attempt to review a show which I saw over a month ago. But I really want to review it, because I have many feels about this show.

Not the same show, but similar!

On this night I had some misadventures involving a random guy I met near the club. I was feeling expansive, and he was friendly, so I offered him my extra ticket. I was thinking about previous shows where I had tried to sell an extra ticket unsuccessfully, and I was thinking why not do a nice gesture since this fellow apparently had nothing better to do. Well, turned out to be a mistake, but not ultimately a calamitous one. He actually got himself kicked out of the club before the show started, after he got up on the stage and started mumbling something he said was a prayer. Anyway, I swear I’m going to stop being so friendly to random guys I meet. It seems like usually a scam, or somebody who is very unlikely to share your worldview on almost anything.

The opening act was Jenny O, about whom I know nothing. I was glad the show was starting, and grateful for the darkness, the sounds, and the fact that my tedious companion David had been booted from the club.

I was initially pretty into Jenny. The edible I popped earlier had kicked in and I was pretty high. It was just Jenny solo but her guitar sounded nice and full. The Swedish American hall is a fairly spartan venue, with polished wood floors and white walls, but it’s small, and the acoustics are decent. Her voice is reedy, soulful and possesses a timbre which seems to shift from song to song. Lots of echo in the voice. Jenny has a soulful quality, and reminds me a little of Kristin Hersh. The crowd is a little small but appreciative. However, about four songs in to her set and Jenny is starting to grate on me. This night is cursed. My new neighbors are talking through the show. Jenny is maybe a little simplistic for my taste. Ultimately, the sound was kind of muddy. She is talking to us, but I can’t make it out. She’s talented, and has a vulnerable quality, which made me root for her. It was good, but not great.

Gentle readers, nothing prepared me for Margaret Glaspy’s performance. In all the songs I’ve listened to, and videos I’ve watched, Margaret and her guitar seem inseparable. She’s a true guitar goddess, from a bluegrass family, she started on fiddle or banjo as a girl, maybe, and has been performing since she was a child. Anyway, her guitar playing is just so gutsy and inventive, I was anticipating an evening of getting blown away by her fretboard mastery. But Glaspy had something completely different in mind, which in a way was even more amazing because she pulled off a show that was 90% about her singing, and consisted mostly of covers (most of which I didn’t even know). She did not even pick up her guitar until about song 11, and then only played about 4 songs on it.

She came out in a black sheer cocktail dress that was kind of sparkly. There was one accompanist, Tyler Chester, who played keyboards, bass, and some kind of possibly electronic percussion.

Although I was really looking forward to listen to her rip out a bunch of songs on the six string, this show really worked for me, and boosted my estimation of Glaspy’s talent. It’s like ‘you already know I’m an amazing guitar player and songwriter, but tonight I’m going to just sing you a bunch of covers and blow you away with just my voice and emotional range.’ And I was blown away.

She opened with Anthony from Emotions and Math – just vocals and keyboards and brilliant. This was one of only 4 of her own compositions, by my counting. A few songs in she laughed and says something about the show being ‘kind of a juke box’. I have done my best at identifying the songs, but they were mostly new to me, so it’s hit or miss. Some of the instrumentation was down-right electronic, and vaguely Björk-like. There are some drum machines, and her voice is processed electronically on some numbers. As I said, she doesn’t pull out her guitar until song 11. Her signature songs like Emotions & Math and Love Like This turn out to be equally great without her bluesy riffs, only her voice and Chester’s keyboards to carry them. The last song of the set is Neil Young’s Harvest Moon and it’s fucking brilliant.

Set List
  • Anthony
  • Hope She’ll be Happier (Bill Withers Cover)
  • Love Like This
  • Mythological Beauty (Big Thief Cover)
  • Lost Until I’m Found (Perry Nunn Cover)
  • Version of Me (Kimbra Cover)
  • I’m Glad You’re Mine (Al Green Cover)
  • Emotions and Math
  • ? (Lauryn Hill Cover)
  • ? (Sarah Siskind Cover)
  • All I Wanna Do Is Fall In Love (? possibly Robyn Hitchcock cover)
  • something about “Angry Again”
  • Somebody to Anybody
  • I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt cover)
  • Harvest Moon (Neil Young cover)
  • [encore]
  • another cover, possibly Greg Flannery

That was definitely a show for the ages. The video above is not from that show, but it has the same feel (and same outfit). Enjoy!

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