One of the founding members, half a lifetime ago now, of beloved alt-rock band Throwing Muses, Kristin Hersh brought her Electric Trio to the Quarterhouse on Mothering Sunday. Returning to the Kent coast exactly nine months to the day after her sold out show in Ramsgate, Hersh rocked up in Folkestone as part of her 'Live And Loud' tour.
Together with fellow band mates Rob Ahlers (50 Foot Wave) and Fred Abong (Throwing Muses), Hersh played a 16-track set that included material drawn from each of her creative arms of the last 36 years. To say she's been prolific doesn't quite encapsulate the artistic output of the 52-year-old singer-songwriter. The Atlantan has been taking it anything but easy since at least 1983 (when she formed TM with her step-sister Tanya Donelly) having contributed to some twenty plus albums to date.
Hersh's 'Live And Loud' tour reached its penultimate date in celebration of Kristin's tenth solo album 'Possible Dust Clouds', as she and her band took to the stage in Folkestone's Creative Quarter. Dressed in khaki cargo pants, a hoody and a pair of wedge-heeled sandals, Hersh was still channelling some long gone collegiate vibe as she strapped on her guitar.
Kristin and her band opened up with two simultaneous tracks from her latest album. The album's first two songs, and tonight's first two songs, 'LAX' and 'No Shade In Shadow', served as a poignant reminder of Hersh's prodigious talent and highlighted a return to form for the quinquagenarian. Playing with intent, Ahlers quipping at one point, "this is a rock show", the Electric Trio didn't hold back.
Ahlers' solid percussive foundation was casually flamboyant but deft and adroit all evening and Abong's rumbling bass acted as a fantastic foil to Hersh's mesmeric guitar. The raw potency of 'LAX', with Hersh's scuzzy revolving licks and Abong's subterranean bass, heralded a great start to the set. At the breakdown, two thirds through the song, you got to hear the range and individuality in Hersh's immediately recognisable vocal for the first time and it is still incredible.
'Mississippi Kisses', the first of tonight's three tracks from her 2010 album 'Crooked', sounded no less impassioned before Hersh dipped into the Throwing Muses back catalogue with the pulsating and edgy 'Sunray Venus'. Hersh's latest single 'Loud Mouth' kept up the momentum with its loaded wall of sound and despairing lyrics before the tempo shifted for a track off Hersh's debut solo album from 1994, 'Hips And Makers'. Rob Ahlers took up the part previously played by R.E.M's Michael Stipe as Kristen Hersh delivered a great take on the haunting 'Your Ghost'.
Throughout the evening the band joked about goats, submarines, goats on submarines, paper plates, being on a tight budget and how they wish they could have mic'd up the backstage refrigerator. It was evident that Kristen Hersh is still clearly enjoying playing live and entertaining a very receptive crowd even if, as happened towards the end of the show, her much cherished 'Tele' died! The balance of the night, as you may have expected, was skewed towards tracks taken from last year's October release as at first a brooding and moody Tequila fuelled 'Tulum', a beautifully fuzzy 'Breathe In' and then a more chilled out 'Halfway Home' completed the sextet of songs from her last album.
Hersh went back to 1995 Throwing Muses with her penultimate track 'Limbo' (written as 'Dumbo' on the setlist) before the main set was closed out with the quirky lullaby, 'Cuckoo'. It wasn't long before the enthusiasm of the audience drew the band out for a one track encore. Abong (so much better suited to his band role than in his solo support slot guise) took to the drums and Ahlers the bass as The Electric trio belted out an absolutely fantastic take on a previously unreleased 50 Foot Wave track, 'Broke'.
Kristin Hersh hasn't lost any of her venom, her ability to write or her way with a guitar. In just over an hour she and her band delivered up an electrified performance to the delight of the Quarterhouse crowd.
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In one of the tiniest theatres, on one of the smallest stages, and playing to a diminutive audience, the petite Amy Odell played a tremendous gig...
Live Through This was released on this day (April 12) in 1994.