Martha Wainwright Storms Through New York

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Martha Wainwright / Photo by Sean O'Kane
WRITTEN BY
Tricia Summers

If anything was emblematic of Martha Wainwright's show last night at the Highline Ballroom, it would have been the weather. While the skies vacillated between softly humid and fiercely torrential, Wainwright delivered her unique blend of tender and rough in a crowded and intimate setting.

Following a rousing and frequently hilarious performance by queer icon Justin Bond, Wainwright took to the mic in sky-high sparkly heels and a demurely sexy floral mini-dress. Modestly mumbling "Hi" to the swelling audience, the Montreal chanteuse began to delicately pick out the melody of opener "I Wish I Were" from her latest album, I Know You're Married but I've Got Feelings Too. Wainwright leaned into the mic stand with every burst of emotion, punctuating her vocals with nonverbal gestures.

The gentleness subsided as Wainwright launched into "Bleeding All Over You," now joined by her backing band members, with a voice both gentle and aggressive, which was a polarity that peppered most of the evening. "Jesus & Mary" showcased her signature mix of wail, growl, and bluesy melismatic delivery. Wainwright's upper register slid back and forth over favored syllables, especially during old fan favorites like "Far Away" and "This Life." And of course, in true folk spirit, Wainwright sang an anti-war song, "The Tower."

Midway through the set, after a few mild vocal cracks and wobbles, Wainwright apologized sweetly for her voice, explaining she had just been at her brother Rufus' birthday party and the whole family had sung themselves hoarse. "There are a lot of big voices in my family," she joked, and the crowd cheered Wainwright on reassuringly. And while that may be true, Martha Wainwright can certainly hold her own.

We Asked: Aside from Martha Wainwright, who is your favorite Canadian musical export?

Read the fans' answers >>
More photos from this show >>

We Asked: Aside from Martha Wainwright, who is your favorite Canadian musical export?

Back to the story >>
More photos from this show >>


Martha Wainwright / Photo by Sean O'Kane


Martha Wainwright / Photo by Sean O'Kane


Martha Wainwright / Photo by Sean O'Kane


Martha Wainwright / Photo by Sean O'Kane


Martha Wainwright / Photo by Sean O'Kane


Martha Wainwright / Photo by Sean O'Kane


Martha Wainwright / Photo by Sean O'Kane

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