Gig review: Marissa Nadler

AS SHE took to a brightly-lit stage at Broadcast, you sensed that the first thing Marissa Nadler would do would be to request a little less light.
American singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler. Picture: Creative CommonsAmerican singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler. Picture: Creative Commons
American singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler. Picture: Creative Commons

Marissa Nadler

Broadcast, Glasgow


The Bostonian’s brand of gothic alt-folk is crepuscular, ethereal, intensely atmospheric stuff, probably best enjoyed by the glow of a single flickering candle.

As she deftly finger-picked and strummed an acoustic guitar that sounded adrift in a veritable ocean of reverb, Nadler’s poetic songs rendered crystal clear in a gorgeously lilting, floating voice –part Hope Sandoval, part Buckleys Tim and Jeff – about heartbreak and death variously featured such chirpy lines as We Are Coming Back’s opening chest-punch “I died when you left”, or Dead City Emily’s depressive motif “I was coming apart those days”, or during the encore and Your Heart Is A Twisted Vine, the chorus lyric “many a tear I’ve cried”. You knew the feeling.

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When Nadler spoke softly and politely between songs it was with what could easily have been mistaken for the nervy self-consciousness of someone hearing their voice amplified for the first time.

Her new album July, from which almost all of this set was drawn, is in fact her sixth to date and perhaps her best-received. Cellist, synth player and backing vocalist Janel Leppin’s effects-washed drones and solos provided a scintillatingly lush counterpoint to Nadler’s spindly guitar and voice, and yet Leppin wore such a dutiful frown throughout you wondered if she wouldn’t rather the floor swallowed her.

At best this show was desolately beautiful. At worst it was mood music at its most self-flagellatingly joyless.
Seen on 04.09.14