On Sunday night I was lucky enough to see Iris DeMent and Greg Brown perform in Wellington at the lovely venue, Old St Paul's. Now, I've been to a few shows at Old St Paul's over the years - most recently the Don McGlashan and Dave Dobbyn gig; also a really good show. But I never thought I'd see Iris DeMent. It seems she never planned to come to New Zealand either, she seemed genuinely overwhelmed with the response - that there were people this far away from her home that had heard of her; that were waiting to hear her.
I turned up early on Sunday to nab a pew (as it were). I have my spot at that church - down the back, in the corner, but still with vision. So I was there about an hour before the performance. And so was half the audience. It was full just before start-time and Iris' husband Greg Brown, no slouch - a very fine songwriter, in fact plenty of people were there to see and hear him first and foremost - played a great wee set.
But hearing Iris DeMent sing was something else.
I first got hooked into her music with the 2004 album, Lifeline. That album captivated me - she was Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn. She sounded like she might have gone to school, rubbed shoulders at least, with Bessie Smith. She sounded not of this world. She was beaming in songs from another era; these heartfelt performances, real tear-jerkers. Just beautiful.
That was it for me - a fan. I traced the sound back - picked up earlier albums by her and earlier albums I figured might have influenced her. I've kept listening to Iris DeMent across the years but I never expected to see her perform live.
And Sunday night was no letdown - it was one of the most amazing shows I've sat down to. And as I said in the review I'm pretty sure it was the finest live singing I've ever heard and seen. You could almost see that voice rising up from the piano, hovering, hanging. You could certainly feel the hairs prickle on your arms. You couldn't be sure of much else in fact - everything else seemed to stop when she started.
Wow. It was just amazing.
Now the reason Wellington was lucky enough to see Greg Brown and Iris Dement (two shows, Sunday night and last night) was because of Gareth Morgan. He wanted to see her, he wanted to share that experience - and so he made it happen.
I probably don't thank promoters enough - as is clear when I check to see if my name is on the door when reviewing a show: a slight lump in the throat, clear the throat, a little gulp. All clear? Phew! I'm through! Poorly-paid work shouldn't be so hard, right?
But I sincerely have to say a huge thanks to Gareth Morgan - for Sunday night. And I'm sure there are other Wellingtonians grateful for the night they had at Old St Paul's on Sunday and/or Monday. We were treated so something really special.
I'm well aware that declaring something the best ever is not a way to get anywhere next time - he says, banned from seeing Leonard Cohen after declaring it the best show ever - but if, Gareth Morgan, you should consider a sideline in concert promoting you've clearly got very good instincts and a fan of you r earliest work right here. May I suggest, and it's so rude to do this of course, that next time - if there is one - you think about bringing Randy Newman to Wellington to play the MFC with his solo piano Songbook show. That (too) would really be something.
I was going to end with a joke about how I bet you're not about to bring out a return season of the musical CATS. But this is a sincere thank you. For what it's worth (probably not even the blog it's posted on) so I won't be doing that.
Any Iris DeMent fans out there? Did you see the show/s? What did you think?
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