concert reviews

Laura Veirs, Hypnotizing at Jammin' Java
Laura Veirs at Jammin' Java, Vienna, VA, Thursday 18 May 2006

The cozy setting of Jammin' Java was fitting for Seattle singer-songwriter Laura Veirs, whose dry, conversational tone would lose its subtlety amid too much audience chatter. On Thursday night, her slight hoarseness on "Rialto" recalled the charming atonality of early Liz Phair, but her songs had more in common musically with the rolling repetitions of American Analog Set.

Those trance-like arrangements kept her hour-long set captivating, with the steady melodies of songs including "Secret Someones" complementing Veirs's hypnotic vocals. Her three-piece band, the Tortured Souls, aptly channeled her songs with such unity that the show felt more like a group collaboration than a solo set, with Steve Moore adding an airy keyboard riff in "Fire Snakes" and a subtle trumpet drone in "Shadow Blues." Karl Blau supplemented the lush sound with everything from guitar and bass to a light vocal counter-melody in "Galaxies."

But Veirs's older songs sounded more like underdeveloped solo presentations than a group effort: The trumpet in "Wind Is Blowing Stars" blended too closely with Veirs's guitar, while "Through December," without percussion, lacked grounding. Veirs opened her encore alone with Elizabeth Cotten's "Freight Train," but she was then joined by her band for the haunting "Lake Swimming," whose dynamic changes perfectly captured the group's brooding energy.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 20 May 2006; Page C03
.: Selected discography: Year of Meteors (Laura Veirs, 2005); Carbon Glacier (Laura Veirs, 2004); Troubled by the Fire (Laura Veirs, 2003); Beneath Waves (Karl Blau, 2006).