After several years of touring and recording with her band Big Thief, Adrianne Lenker went back into the studio to record her second album, abysskiss. She’s been touring through Europe and the US over the last few weeks and chose the Minneapolis as her last stop.
The mood was elevated at Thursday’s sold out show at the Cedar. It was a homecoming of sorts. Although she calls New York home now, Lenker spent large parts of her youth all over the Twin Cities. It was clear that the audience had faces familiar to her scattered throughout.
The Cedar had chairs set up on its usually open floor and they were absolutely packed in to fit the sold-out crowd. Some were just inches from the stage.
Lenker’s collaborator and friend Luke Temple opened up the show. He is a folk singer-songwriter who echoes the likes of Nick Drake and Bob Dylan with intense stories within his lyrics. His vocals were clear and complimented his lyrical style. Temple eased the audience into the evening with a calm yet commanding energy. His calmness grew urgent as his songs deepened throughout his set.
Temple finished off his set with a jarring performance of “Maryanne Was Quiet.” You could hear a pin drop in the packed room as he sang the true story of a woman succumbing to anxiety and depression which culminated in a suicide attempt. Her survival gave her a new lease on life. The audience was left in contemplation as he exited the room and the house lights came up.
Lenker swiftly took her place onstage and began her set. She sat on a stool with her acoustic guitar and tea. The stage was barren. Just a keyboard and microphone completed the sparse stage setup. She shyly smiled at the crowd and began to strum her guitar. The stage felt full; fuller still when she began to sing.
The songs guided the crowd through different life scenes like a photo album. Each song had a unique story, in its own season and time. Some seemed autobiographical and some seemed like stories from close friends or family. All of them felt completely mystical when paired with Lenker’s serene voice.
The pictures in this lyrical photo album weren’t posed shots. They weren’t the perfect images your mother begs you to take. They showed the realities of life; whether they be harsh, mundane, or joyous. “symbol,” “from,” and “Kerina” were highlights of the set.
Her voice is gentle but bold. Her vibrato sounds comforting somehow. She picks and strums her guitar heartily; at times even it sounded like multiple players. This intensified midway through the set when she brought Luke Temple back to play guitar and synths with her.
Even with songs as intricate and poetic as Lenker’s, the crowd was laughing and smiling between songs as she joked with them. When she asked for Luke’s guitar to be turned down in her monitor she looked at him and grinned, “It sounds great, Luke!”
Her guitar was on its last legs. She got it from St. Paul guitar shop Willie’s when she was 14 years old. It wouldn’t stay in tune, so she chatted with the crowd to pass the time while she worked on it. At one point she even hugged it and assured it that it would only be two more songs. It was four as she came out for an encore after a standing ovation.
Adrianne Lenker can make such an intense impression on so many fans because her songs are left open to interpretation, even if they feel specific on the surface. The show was full of emotional moments for fans and it’s really clear that she has a home in Minnesota whenever she needs it.