Third time is a charm. After having tickets to two other shows, I finally got a chance to see The Bowerbirds. Previously, they'd canceled a show in SF that I had tickets to and then upon their return, something came up and I had to flake. The cards were not falling in my favor and when I later heard that Beth was really sick at one point, I feared I'd never see them perform. It's selfish, I know. Let's keep moving. Thankfully, Beth is better and the band is going strong. When I got the chance to pick up some tickets for a show at the Troubadour, I jumped on it immediately. I had high expectations and they didn't disappoint.
They started with a couple crowd favorites from 2007's Hymns for a Dark Horse. By the close of the second song people were rapt. That's where the pleasure cruise of hits from the past ended and a new adventure began. Having never seen the band perform live I didn't know the kind of stage precense Philip Moore has. He confidently batted away request after request for old songs and instead did what any experienced touring musician does – he played through it. And he won. At one point someone called out for "Olive Hearts," to which Phil comically replied, "This one is kind of like Olive Hearts. It's called 'Death Wish'."
Written in a particularly dark period, The Bowerbirds latest album, The Clearing is surprisingly bright in spots. There are dark bits but there is also a lot of light and it translates well live. I have to believe that this tour is a huge breath of fresh air for Phil, Beth and the rest of the band. They had to overcome a lot to make it back onto the road and back into the groove where they are happiest. In Beth's words:
The chapter preceding the making of the album was a disastrous chapter. [Phil and I] broke up and stayed broken up for a year. I fell and broke my ribs [...] And then the last thing that happened is that I got really sick suddenly and was in the hospital. [...] Looking back on it once we were done we looked at all the lyrics - we realized there were all these common themes of having made it through and taking notice of what's all around you while you can.
Turning out song after song from The Clearing and a handful from Upper Air, the Bowerbirds kept the crowd attentively listening and wanting for more. After an incredibly short encore break, the band retook the stage and closed the night with Overcome with Light (youtube: not shot at the Troubador) – it was a perfect lullaby hymn to close out the beautiful night.