Past is prologue. The present is, too. Even the future itself is the first verse to a song yet to be written. Life is forever in progress, in other words, though we often don’t always see it as such. (Stasis, in that sense, is illusory; we’re forever in the process of becoming.) Add to that this: today is tomorrow’s past and yesterday’s future.
Which is to say, these are the good old days.
On a frigid night in Carrboro, NC, Courtney Marie Andrews and band warmed the Cat’s Cradle Back Room with a sterling set once they hit the stage a bit past 9pm. The title track to the former kicked off the night…
…and what followed was a surprise: A set almost solely focused on her last two albums, Loose Future and Old Flowers. The only older songs that surfaced: the hypnotic “Near You,” which fit in with the Crazy Horse-like cacophony the band generated at times, and an acoustic “May Your Kindness Remain,” which she performed as the first song of a two-song encore.
If you read my review of Loose Future, which was released last month, you know that I found certain aspects of it somewhat off-kilter; as my wife Diane observed, she sounds more like the Staves on several songs than herself. Live, however, the same critique doesn’t hold true. Yes, the arrangements of the title track, “Satellite” and several others are a tad lighter, but they fit right in besides Old Flowers material.
Of the Old Flowers tunes: The mesmerizing “Break the Spell” opened with an extended atmospheric intro (the first portion of which I failed to record) that reminded me of Melody Gardot’s ambient intros when we saw her in concert in 2010, while the song about ancestral trauma, “It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault,” resonated into the weekend. “Carnival Dream,” for its part, built into a frenzy time and again, reminding me of the brutal grace achieved by Neil Young & Crazy Horse in their electric workouts. I wish I’d recorded it.
About the only negatives: the too-short 75-minute set; and the low-light performance of my iPhone 12 Mini, which is somehow worse than the 6s I had before.
Of the former: Courtney is at the stage in her career where she could—and should—play longer. I’m not talking three-hour marathons in the Bruce Springsteen tradition, mind you, but at least 100 minutes. (You know, the length of a typical headliner’s slot.) She has four strong albums to pull from (and some strong songs from the albums that came before those), so a short set just seems unfair to both herself and her fans.
Of the latter: My hunch is it has to do with the default HDR settings, with the low light causing the over-saturation of colors. As a result, I ran two of the videos through filters to make them a little more palatable to the eye, though the “dancing lights” phenomenon remains. (I should have just made them black-and-white.)
All that said, quibbles about length and all, it was still a great night and a great boost for this aging soul. I’d share the set list but didn’t see one on the stage (and the eight days between then and now has muddied my memory; in years past, I often reconstructed the set based on snatches of songs in my “live” photos, but I didn’t take many pictures this night). Instead, after that lengthy parenthetical, I’ll end with this, a sublime “May Your Kindness Remain” that Courtney performed on her acoustic guitar as the first encore.