Gig review: The Weather Station at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

The Weather Station. Picture: Shervin Lainez
The Weather Station. Picture: Shervin Lainez
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“This one’s about someone who hasn’t figured themselves out yet”, offers Tamara Lindeman (before going on to allude the current occupant of the White House might be one of these people who poison their surroundings with their insecurities and unhappiness) before a mesmerising rendition of The Most Dangerous Thing About You.

Judging by tonight’s superlative, rapturously received performance, the singer/guitarist operating as The Weather Station has certainly figured out her ideal musical settings.

Having started out with hushed acoustic folk-orientated offerings, Lindeman has gradually expanded her palette. Last year’s self-titled fourth Weather Station album, which plugged in and cranked up the idiosyncratic, intimate and observational songwriting style honed to near-perfection on 2015’s Loyalty, justifiably featured prominently near the very top of many best-of-2017 lists. Backed by a versatile, muscular yet subtle three-piece band, the material is even more startlingly potent and fresh live.

“Joni (Mitchell) has a team of people to tune her guitars. I only have me”, Lindeman quips whilst preparing to deliver second encore Everything I Saw – a rare throwback to her solo acoustic origins that follows the audience’s stern refusal to let the band leave just yet – to explain why she’s lately swapped exotically tuned finger-picking for rockier terrains.

Lindeman’s fellow Canadian is often a lazy point of comparison thrown at any female songwriter. Mixing unflinching confessionals with cool and clear-eyed analysis of people and their situations and setting the ensuing poetry – often more reminiscent of ultra-condensed modern short stories than conventionally rhyming singer-songwriter fare – to unpredictably unfurling song structures and unusual chord shapes, songs such as Free really do pack more than a distant echo of Mitchell’s 70s classics, alongside such likeminded contemporary musicians as Brigid Mae Power and Sharon Van Etten.

But as the set picks up pace, such comparisons start to become less and less convincing. By the high-octane swirl of Thirty – an energising dose of whippet-lean rock ’n’ roll with a words per minute count equivalent only to hip hop; referring to a cold she’s picked up, Lindeman later says she’s happy she didn’t have to cough during the set as there’s no room for the singer to pause in these tunes – we’ve ventured as far from the cosily seated conventions of traditional singer-songwriter templates as humanly possible. To put it bluntly, The Weather Station rock.

The sudden swap from such high octane energy to the hushed intimacy of Loyalty that follows it could easily be a cue for the audience’s attention to wonder. As a sign of Lindeman’s impressive ability to carry her audience with her through sudden swerves in decibels and approach, this lament for a “love that was only ever a kind of distance that we could not cross” is greeted even more enthusiastically. What’s more, there are hints that the Weather Station could still only be getting warmed up: the crunchy guitar duel between Lindeman and superbly shredding Will Kidman towards the conclusion of Tapes suggests the band’s only just tapping into their dynamic potential.