On a typical night of coverage, there usually are a digital roll of 400 or more photos on the camera. Last night I walked away from the double bill of partners Anna Tivel and Jeffrey Martin with just under 50 photos.
The lack of clicking certainly didn’t come from the lack of talent and musicianship in the space, but more from the sheer engagement and focus that your mind goes to when watching these two artists perform.
Anna Tivel had the audience perfectly still and silent by the third song in, “The Question.” Her soft spoken voice and shoe-less stance is like stealth therapy into your ears. The ever subtle wisp of reverb keeping her voice intimate and instantly in front of you. The room was so quiet that all the bleeps and bloops of bad cell phone etiquette trickled through in the beginning.
Amidst her set came a few new songs that carried the same strength and lyrical weight of her catalog. A song about hoarders and our urge to consume to fill the gaps in our life, had a line that I still can’t purge from my head today.
“I can’t find it,
Paradise is in the mind, I just know it is.
I’ve been searching for a lifetime.”
“The Bell” and “Black Umbrella” exemplified the skill and dynamic control Anna exerts over her voice. There’s a concentrated weight in the soft delivery of her lines, keeping you on the hook as a listener. Specifically you can hear it in the way she can smoothly trail off and fade the last word into a whisper.
Jeffrey Martin stepped on stage and immediately transported me to another powerful songwriter favorite of mine, David Ramirez.
His deep voice and tender delivery of well enunciated lyrics are stunningly engaging. At moments he’d twist the ankle or peak up on his toes to deliver lines, while contorting his face to manipulate the phrasing in such a mindful way.
“Billy Burroughs” showcased Jeffrey’s talent of storytelling with a song about a beat writer that killed his wife, ran away, and became inspired by the her death to become a writer. His bad behaviors faded away due to his writing success.
Tucked between the more serious songs was a humorous story and song written about two bad people playing checkers. Sparked by a couple in the front row that had made custom t-shirts with the chorus printed on them (“I’m a checkers playing gutterbitch”), the crowd laughed and sang along to the unreleased song.
Anna returned to sing and play violin for “Coal Fire” and a newer heavy song called “Red Wagon” about making space for redemption in a world focused on pointing out mistakes.
Listening to the pair together, the contrast between their voices blended expertly. While Anna tends to allow the last words of a line fade out, Jeffrey is the opposite by almost accentuating the last word.
Here’s where the show became instantly unforgettable.
In between the sets, my wife went up to purchase a shirt from Anna and teared up. I had warned my wife that there was a heavy song (“American Novella”) that I really wanted to hear, and to be prepared for it emotionally. The song deals with watching someone fade away and wishing them a peaceful transition into the darkness. As we are currently dealing with a similar situation, it was bound to be a heavy moment. So my wife briefly shared a bit about our current situation and thanked her for not playing it.
Jeffrey and Anna ended the evening singing “Buckets of Rain” by Bob Dylan with the lines, “Life is sad, life is a bust, all ya can do is do what you must, you do what you must do and ya do it well.”
I imported my limited photos and zoomed into the setlist. Lo and behold, ‘Am Novella’ sat at the bottom of the list. They choose not to play that song due to the compassion and care graced from that conversation with my wife. That is next level intuitive care for emotions that made this night unforgettable.