Aoife O’Donovan Transports Music Hall of Williamsburg Crowd

Aoife O’Donovan Transports Music Hall of Williamsburg Crowd

March 04, 2022

Aoife O’Donovan Transports Music Hall of Williamsburg Crowd

Aoife O’Donovan – Music Hall of Williamsburg – March 3, 2022

Aoife O’Donovan’s performance at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Thursday night had a theme, and it wasn’t an expected one from the easygoing folkie. That theme was one of transit and transportation, as became apparent midway through the set. But while a good hunk of old-time Americana centers on big locomotives barreling down a track into the great unknown, O’Donovan’s finds its muse in the everyday of public transportation, the city bus and subway, or the cheap liners that run between New York City and her hometown Boston. It’s a fitting metaphor for her superlative songwriting, on display all night, the deliberate slow-then-fast-then-slow pacing of a crosstown bus and the communal we’re-all-in-this-together attitude of a packed subway car.

The set leaned heavily on material from the recently released Age of Apathy, opening with “Galahad,” O’Donovan’s melt-in-the-air vocals fueled by harmonies and guitar soloing from Isa Burke. Each song danced between tasteful and tasty, O’Donovan’s vocals and acoustic guitar playing standing on its own, but the band adding just enough to properly decorate things for the swaying audience. Dreamy imagery and pointed observations in the lyrics came and went with the regularity of the bus, if you missed one great line, there was another one coming right behind it, O’Donovan singing, “Makeshift magazines are blowing in the wind” in “Sister Starling” and painting an entire landscape with her words in “Magic Hour.”

The explicit transit section came with “B61” and “Lucky Star,” the band doing more than just going from point A to point B. The band left the stage and O’Donovan was joined by opener Yasmin Williams, who accompanied her on guitar for a cover of “What Else Can I Do?” from the film Encanto—sounding every bit like a song of her own—which she announced would be released as a surprise single the next day. The band returned for the second cover of the night, a rollicking, I’m-a-big-fan take on Bruce Springsteen’s “Open All Night,” brimming with on-the-move imagery, the musicians bringing the boogie to match. The transitory theme stayed on until the end of the line, to the encore of “Passengers,” with O’Donovan singing about how “We are passengers traveling through the afterworld,” that we should “Just take the wheel and drive,” and, finally, “the road is long,” Williams back onstage adding lovely guitar to the mix of fiddle and bass, an easy-on/easy-off journey come to an end. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photo courtesy of @SashaSeesShows

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