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Concert review: I’m With Her at the Chan Centre (9/30/18)

Sunday night at UBC, while most students were frantically trying to finish homework due at 11:59, roughly 1,000 people sat captivated in the Chan Centre. Three women, multiple instruments, simple songs, and all those people — who likely had many other things to be worrying about — were transfixed.

I’m With Her is made up of three individually successful folk/Americana singer-songwriters who joined together as a band after an impromptu performance in 2014. Sarah Jarosz, (who won two Grammys last year for her solo effort Undercurrent), Sara Watkins, and Aoife O’Donovan make up the trio. Their sound and setup evoke comparisons to the Dixie Chicks, but I’m With Her has little-to-no attachment to the pop-country influence that made the Chicks so popular, and the prior are blessed with more compelling lyrics.

In a music industry filled with big, choreography-filled concert tours, the I’m With Her show was a wonderful return to basics. The three women all have incredible musical talent, and they switched from instrument to instrument with ease throughout the hour and a half long show.

They kicked off with “See You Around,” the titular track to their debut record as a group. It began with Jarosz, but saw O’Donovan and Watkins quickly jumping in on harmony, giving the audience an initial taste of the beautiful blend these three musicians have crafted. “Game To Lose” followed, with a punctuated “stuck” in the chorus emphasizing the level of practice and thought that went into every detail of their performance.

The group did a variety of covers, everything from a traditional gospel interlude, to a Vampire Weekend song. The latter was a highlight of the concert, with I’m With Her transforming “Hannah Hunt” from a pop rock track to an Americana romp. The three women harmonized beautifully throughout the night, but their ability to break up their harmonies with carefully-selected moments of unison set them apart from other groups. Everything they did was obviously thought-out, but not to the extent that it felt rehearsed or scripted. It just felt professional.

About halfway through the show, they transitioned from their three mic setup to sharing one mic at the front of the stage, closer to the audience. The second arrangement created an incredible group energy, showing that the women were truly feeling the music together. Their personal relationships with each other came out throughout the night, with both Watkins and O’Donovan affectionately calling Sarah Jarosz just ‘Jarosz.’

The encore was unexpected and breathtaking. From three mics, to one mic, to none, O’Donovan took center stage and began “Ryland (Under The Apple Tree),” with just her and a guitar. In the large auditorium, there were no chatters, no soft rustles of clothing, no anything. Everyone sat, in a trance, listening and watching O’Donovan. The addition of Watkins’ fiddle and Jarosz’s harmonies only added to the experience. When they finished the song, there was a moment of silence, before everyone began to clap and cheer. The cheers continued until the trio was well off the stage, no one quite wanting to stop.

 

Setlist:

  1. “See You Around”
  2. “Game To Lose”
  3. “Overland”
  4. “Crossing Muddy Waters” (John Hiatt cover)
  5. “Chinky Pin Hill”
  6. “I-89”
  7. “Young In All The Wrong Ways” (Sara Watkins)
  8. “Little Lies”
  9. “Panagea”
  10. “Today Is A Brand New Day”
  11. “Hannah Hunt” (Vampire Weekend cover)
  12. “Waitsfield”
  13. “Lord, Lead Me On” (Traditional gospel cover)
  14. “Thursday’s Child” (Aoife O’Donovan)
  15. “Still Life” (Sarah Jarosz)
  16. “Close It Down”
  17. “Hornets” (Aoife O’Donovan)
  18. “Ring Them Bells” (Bob Dylan cover)
  19. “Ain’t That Fine”

ENCORE

  1. “Ryland (Under the Apple Tree) (UNPLUGGED)

 

First year Media Studies student with a love for writing and music!
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