Eleanor Friedberger – Platform Cafe Terrace, Hackney, 29/09/11

Eleanor Friedberger Last Summer cover
The beautifully quirky and quirkily beautiful Eleanor Friedberger – one half of odd-pop duo Fiery Furnaces – found the perfect setting at Hackney’s Platform Cafe on Thursday for a stripped back and satisfyingly intimate one-off show in support of new album Last Summer. Soon to embark on her first UK tour in support of the record, tonight provided a small audience the opportunity to recline across sofas, amid potted plants and retro lampshades, and see Friedberger in rarefied form.

You couldn’t say she was nervous per se – the abstract nature of many Fiery Furnaces songs is, in the live setting, a dexterous feat as impressive as the songwriting itself – but here, the delicacy of her songs, free from the schizophrenia of Furnaces material, was clear; hushing a lucky few for an hour.

Songs such as album opener ‘My Mistakes’ highlights her unquestionable pop sensibility. Walking the line between upbeat and melancholy, the hooks and simple songwriting are gently counterpointed by her peculiar nature – she can’t help but go into a stream-of-consciousness final verse; an everyday tale that jumps with the scatty poetics of a Virginia Woolf novel.

Amid overbright stage lighting, so it proved: it was her articulate, offbeat wordplay that this stripped-down setting illuminated best. ‘Inn Of The Seventh Ray’ was disquieting, dark, and brooding, while ‘I Won’t Fall Apart On You Tonight’ proves reminiscent of the kind of eccentric fragility that makes Mirah a similarly captivating songwriter. Though some of the production tweaks, psychedelic moments and fuller arrangements from her album couldn’t really be reproduced here – Friedberger herself admitting early on that ‘I guess not all the songs from my album would work up here’ – her genius is clear.

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