The wooden panels of the Walt Disney Concert Hall became treeslining an intimate forest clearing Friday evening (Nov. 9) when thevenue hosted an enchanting evening of music by Joanna Newsom. Afteryanking her slinky black dress free of the harp stool, Newsom performedthe entirety of her sophomore album Ysas a first set, backed by a 29-piece orchestra and a three-piece band.Violins dropped pizzicato raindrops all over “Emily,” as a barefootdrummer Neil Morgan beat out a Celtic rite on his bass drum; Van DykeParks’ inventive string arrangement for only “Only Skin” threatened tooverwhelm the delicacy of Newsom’s quirky folk art, but couldn’tdiminish the mesmeric effect of watching her hands float across theharp strings.
Maybe it was the lack of orchestra during the secondset, or maybe it was the fan in the audience that exclaimed, “That’s apurty dress” when Newsom reappeared in a hot pink velvety slip. Eitherway, second set highlights like “Colleen” and “Peach, Plum, Pear” feltflexible and fresh, locking the songbird’s twinkling harp into a matrixof banjo, violin and percussion from her backing musicians. And Newsomherself seemed pretty comfortable, quipping, “Those guys are actuallyassholes” after her band left the stage. She closed with “Sadie,”performed solo like it was on Milk-Eyed Mender, when we first fell in love with her.
We asked:Tonight, Joanna Newsom did the solo harp thing, played with anorchestra and led a small band. What musical direction should she takenext?