Joanna Newsom plays Carnegie Hall

Joanna-NewsomOn most nights, Joanna Newsom headlining Carnegie Hall might well top the list of notable musical events in New York City. This was not necessarily the case yesterday, when Kanye West performed an incredible surprise show downtown shortly after the indie singer-songwriter left the venerable Hall. But having miraculously managed to see both performances, I can attest that Newsom’s was too good to be overlooked.

This was the final night of a long tour for Have One on Me, the triple album that Newsom released early this year. Have One On Me runs about two hours, so it would have been impracticable to present everything from it. Instead, Newsom led a small but strong band — drummer, guitarist/banjo player, trombonist, and two violinists — through well-chosen selections from that album and her two previous ones.

She began on harp with 2004’s “Bridges and Balloons,” a wonderful song that non-fans might recognize from an LG/T-Mobile ad currently airing on TV. From that comparatively short number, she moved straight to “Have One on Me,” an 11-minute epic, then switched to piano for the almost-as-lengthy “Easy.”

At one point, Newsom marveled aloud at the acoustic properties of the Hall, a gilded cake of a room where everything seems to sound sweeter and fuller. She used the room to great effect on tangled compositions like “Emily” and “Cosmia” (from her 2006 masterpiece Ys) and more directly phrased new tunes like “In California” and “Good Intentions Paving Company” alike, making each word feel vividly alive.

I regretfully had to miss Newsom’s encore to catch that Kanye West show, but she was so great I hated to leave. Were any of you at Carnegie Hall last night, or did you see her earlier in this tour? Share your thoughts in comments.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

More on
Joanna Newsom: The Music Mix Q&A
EW’s review of Have One on Me

Comments (10 total) Add your comment
  • Kevin

    Such a pretty woman. Such a horrific warble of a voice.

    • A

      I totally agree with you!! She is actually the worst singer I have ever heard. And Simon, I am sorry for you seeing her and Kanye in one night is something I have nightmares about!!

  • yvan

    her toronto show at the beginning of the tour was so infuriating. the venue was also a bar and since she started late, they basically had her cut her show short so they could have their scheduled event night. the crowd clamoured even after all the lights came on until they were forced to let her come back out for one song. it was a disappointingly brief show even though she was wonderful for the small amount of time we got to see her.

  • Puzzl

    Truly the most moving and powerful musical performance I have ever witnessed. Joanna Newsom is the most important thing to happen in music in the past decade at least.

  • Jason

    I saw her in Asheville, NC days before the Carnegie Hall show. She performed a similar set list and even adjusted on the spot to sing “Sadie” which she wasn’t planning on but many in the audience were requesting.

    2 hours of incredible music-one of the most unique shows I have seen.

  • davidbacker

    Best. Concert. Ever. Teared up at every song. I got to ask the drummer (extremely talented, btw) why he wasn’t wearing shoes by shouting it from up on the mezzanine. I felt like I was at home. That’s the energy she creates.

    • Rob

      David, I’m with you. It was a wonderful concert. We too were in the mezzanine, and the only thing to disrupt our appreciation of this incredible concert was the guy near the top of the mezzanine yelling out as if he was at home in front of his television, or the only person in Carnegie Hall, heedless to how he might be harming the experience for all the people around him. But when he quieted down and we were able to enjoy the magic of the evening, we too were swept away. Not to be forgotten.

  • Amira

    Definitely needed my hanky for the whole show. It was inspiring to see so many people appreciating beautiful music together. Best concert of my life, surely.

  • catenariesanddirigibles

    I love her voice :) and she’s an incredible composer and lyricist

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