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| Basia Bulat live at the Workman’s Club, Dublin
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Basia Bulat live at the Workman’s Club, Dublin

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The Venue

The Workman's Club

Wellington Quay, Dublin

The Lineup

Basia Bulat

The Weather Station

The Details

17th April 2016

8:00pm

A golden return for the thinking man's pop star.

I’ve never reviewed a show in The Workman’s Club before. A quick self-Google indicates, I may never have covered a Dublin gig at all. Perhaps it’s this which has got the butterflies in the belly going. Maybe it’s the prospect of seeing a show that’s much-hyped or then again it could be the fear of nothing living up to expectations. Whatever the reasons, I’ve got those first-date nerves, cradling a pint and awkwardly glancing at my phone. Yes, that awkward guy by the bar who’s turned up an hour early and is patiently awaiting the artists’ arrival.

 


Dublin’s Workman’s Lounge is beautifully ramshackle affair with winding corridors, stairs to who knows where and a cosy little downstairs venue with intimate lighting and a solid soundman. In the background the Irish brogue mingles with Canadian tones and there’s talk of poets and scholars and pints of Guinness. The scene is set for support act The Weather Station to take centre stage.

Fronted by Tamara Lindeman, they’ve rightly received high praise for their 2015 album ‘Loyalty’. With hushed vocals and delicately picked guitar, Lindeman welcomes us into The Weather Station world. It’s one of debts paid to Canadian greats like Joni Mitchell and Alanis Morrisette. The awkward silences and in-jokes are almost so bad they’re good and you get the feeling that maybe everyone’s got those date night nerves.

I found the little tapes you kept under your bed, and I played and played and played them over and over again.

Tapes – The Weather Station

‘Personal Eclipse’ namechecks Nebraska in the first verse and conjures up imagery of her Springsteen namesake with sparse guitars and cymbal rides. Far from being one-trick ponies, this group can put the pedal down with ease. ‘Way It Is, Way It Could Be’ takes things up a gear, floor toms kicking in as the set powers on easing us beautifully into an aural hinterland between openers and headliner.

 


If The Weather Station are the timid first-date of my drawn-out analogy, then Basia Bulat is that old flame who’s just unexpectedly burst back onto your scene. That girl from too long ago. The one who was all floppy hats, handclaps, ukuleles and cutesy Canadian charm. The sound of summer nights in 2007. She’s that girl. And yet she isn’t.

Bulat’s latest record ‘Good Advice’ is a little pop masterpiece. Sure there’s still a folky undertone there and there’s undoubtedly still the ability to write a damn good hook but the Canadian multi-instrumentalist has pushed the boundaries with her band and producer Jim James (My Morning Jacket).

On stage she’s a bundle of energy, shimmering in gold, sassy, fronting a band where once she coyly strummed guitar. Effortlessly moving from keys, to trusty acoustic six-string, to autoharp, she takes only a breather from a powerful pop hat-trick of potential hits only to let us know how “stoked” she is to be back on Irish shores. ‘Let Me In’‘La La Lie’ and current single Long Goodbye‘ open the show.

Girls and boys break up. It’s an inevitable fact of life and where some may mope, Basia Bulat drives six hundred miles to Kentucky, makes a stunning breakup record and takes on the world, punching out tunes like she might just be the thinking man’s pop princess.

There’s room in the set for some older tunes. ‘Heart of My Own’‘Five, Four’ and ‘Gold Rush’ played out on autoharp blend in beautifully as the band take a well earned breather for a pint of the black stuff.

‘In The Night’ from 2007’s Polaris Prize nominated ‘Oh, My Darling’ is a surprise inclusion. She tells us she feels like Johnny Cash. She clearly knows Ireland loves its country tunes and this one goes down a treat. I’m not the only one who remembers those early days.

A cover of Primal Scream’s ‘Damaged’ is a little bit of a left field choice. Slowed down and stripped back, this new look Basia Bulat likes to keep us on our toes it seems. Literally as well as metaphorically it turns out as she takes to the floor and twirls gracefully with audience members during ‘Wires’.

With Tamara Lindeman and the rest of The Weather Station making up the band on this tour, there’s an emotional farewell as it’s their last show together for a while. There’s a real genuine warmth and mutual respect between everyone on the stage and it shows in their command of the tunes and the smiles on their faces. Basia saying goodbye to The Weather Station is a touching moment but we can’t have a breakup on date night.

It’s a Sunday night in Dublin and we’re rolling gradually towards Monday the only way the Irish know how, with a pint and a party in mind. Recent single Infamous‘ is a prime example of Bulat’s fresh new take on folk-pop; delivered precisely and with passion.

Wishes for an encore are granted with a lullaby-like rendition of ‘It Can’t Be you’ and with that, it’s over. It’s been a night that exceeded those early expectations and one that leaves us in no doubt that we want these artists in our lives a bit more.

Let’s not leave it another six years.

Setlist on SetList.FM.