By Scott Roberts; photo by Sue Volkert
About 10 years ago, Norwegian band Kings of Convenience released their debut CD, Quiet Is the New Loud, the title of which was more than a simple play on words — it was more of a declaration of how the band’s delicate voices and gentle melodies stood out from the crowd of the usual noisier fare heard on indie playlists at the time. This same idea can also be attributed to the unique stylings of Portland-based singer/songwriter Laura Veirs, whose performance at The Earl on Sunday, September 19 was a powerfully quiet triumph.
Currently on the second leg of a tour in support of July Flame, her latest release from earlier this year (which was interrupted by the birth of her first child in April), Veirs opened her set with “Carol Kaye,” a selection from that release and an ode to a legendary studio bassist from the 1960s. The song set the tone for the evening with Veirs’ deft acoustic finger-picking and hushed vocals at the forefront, perfectly augmented by violist/keyboard player Alex Guy and electric guitarist Tim Young subtle, atmospheric accompaniment and flawless harmonies. The humble trio cast a mesmerizing spell over the decent-for-a-Sunday sized audience with song after song of stark musical beauty and poetic lyrics not often found in acoustic-based folk/pop (ex: “Even when I’m sloshing in the muck of my demise/A large part of me is always and forever tied to the lamplight of your eyes” from “Spelunking”). Highlights included “I Can See Your Tracks,” “Wide Eyed, Legless” (both from July Flame), and “Through December” from her debut, 2001’s The Triumphs and Travails of Orphan Mae.
While introducing “Sun is King,” yet another gem from July Flame and also a highlight of the evening, Veirs described the song thusly: “It’s like you’re out in space, the sun’s blazing your eyes, and there’s a cowboy on your shoulder.” A slight peek into the mind of a brilliant and, as often seems to be the case, under-appreciated singer/songwriter, and, a befitting description of the music of Laura Veirs in general.