Laura Gibson is an internationally-acclaimed singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Oregon, who is currently riding the crest of a wave following the success of her sixth album, Goners, which was released towards the end of last year. To keep the momentum going, Laura Gibson recently embarked on an extensive tour of Europe and the USA, which brought her to Glasgow’s intimate Hug and Pint venue on 28th February. Gibson capitalised on the intimacy of the space by engaging the audience directly with her warmth and dry wit. For the UK and Ireland leg of this tour, Laura Gibson played solo, producing delicately stripped-back versions of her beautifully-crafted songs, alternating between a rich-toned Spanish acoustic guitar and a mini-piano, with the intricate arrangements found on her recordings suggested by occasional use of atmospheric loops.
The set began with a clutch of songs from the Goners album, the pick of which were the fable-like Domestication (which concerns a wolf raised as a woman); the apocalyptic Goners; the achingly poignant Thomas; and the elegant slow-burn of Performers (which portrays lives played out as if on a theatre stage). Laura Gibson’s songs are often dark and mysterious, her literary lyrics rich in vivid and at times unsettling imagery, yet all of this is offset deliciously by the caress of her graceful and feathery vocals.
Gibson continued with a selection of songs from her equally excellent fifth album, Empire Builder, including the bitingly rueful Damn Sure; the quietly menacing swagger of Not Harmless; and, perhaps the outstanding performance of the entire set, the impossibly sad Empire Builder (in which Laura Gibson hovers between hope and despair as she reflects on changes in her life, in the course of a lengthy train journey).
The elegant companion pieces Clemency and Marjory (both from the Goners album) shared bleak and striking imagery, in their references to birds and sharp objects. In contrast, La Grande (the title track from Gibson’s fourth album) breezed along delightfully on a tide of rhythmic guitar chords.
In the heart-breaking I Don’t Want Your Voice To Move Me, Gibson sang movingly and defiantly of her right to deal with grief on her own terms. The eerily beautiful Rush In Dark, sung a capella with some audience participation, had a spiritual, native American Indian vibe. For the closing song of a stunning set, the stage lights were turned off, as Laura Gibson unplugged her guitar and moved to the very front of the stage to serenade us gently with the reflective and lilting Louis.
This was an absorbing, intimate and very fine solo performance by Laura Gibson, which confirmed, for me, her status as one of America’s most original and talented singer-songwriters. I hope that she will be able to bring her full band on the next UK tour, so that the intricate arrangements of these wonderful songs can be heard in their full glory.