Big Thief's Adrianne Lenker at Madison's High Noon Saloon - photo by Dave Robbins
Possessing a voice that holds both child-like wonder and secretive meanings, Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker’s enigmatic presence radiates a disarming charm through honest modesty, timid contradictions and beguiling shyness. Known as a talented lyricist, her solo performance at Madison’s High Noon Saloon highlighted an incredible guitarist whose classical flourishes danced beneath sophisticated folk licks. “Tuning is a big part of my show,” Adrianne offered as a sort of apology to her frequent breaks between songs before she put her acoustic guitar through its paces with sharp finger-picking styles that moved with fluid grace and laser focus. Stripped to their essence, Adrianne’s songs remained dense affairs; her poetic cleverness pours a cornucopia of objects and images animated in precocious associations, a blossoming microcosm which often evaporated on impact, leaving a dreamy aftershock to her cryptic riddles tightly wrapped in embroidered sonority. Admitting it takes her a while to connect, Adrianne initially didn’t say much beyond a quiet thank you between songs. Her genuine reticence conjured a gentle reverence as Adrianne’s twenty-song set unfolded in a seamless flow of her earlier solo songs, a half dozen from her latest album, “songs and instrumentals” plus nine curated Big Thief cuts. The audience respected her reserved demeanor and was hushed even during her pauses to tune, as if they too were getting accustomed to being in a special space. When she noted, early on, that the water she had brought on stage had coffee remnants in it, several bottles and cups of clean water suddenly emerged from the fans hugging the stage. “This is the most intimate venue I’ve played on tour so far,” she confessed, almost daunted by the proximity of her fans attending the sold-out performance. Well into the show, Adrianne asked what time it was, mentioning she might have played too long at previous shows. The crowd was the loudest it had ever been all night protesting such a possibility. It was about then, Adrianne played a new song from the forthcoming Big Thief double album, “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You.” The playful, ‘Spud Infinity,’ lightened the mood, signaling a more relaxed aspect to the evening. A few songs later the concert ended and strangely without the normal shouts for an encore. The crowd politely dispersed; satisfied and appreciative for having shared this time together.