[…continued from last post]
It was soon time for Molly Nilsson to sing to the then nearly packed house. This was a different sort of vibe for me since I don’t think I’ve seen a Mothlight show that was sold out before. Moving around in the tight club was challenging. Being tall, I tried to get about halfway back from the stage for ladies to get a better view. Once I saw Ms. Nilsson onstage, it seemed as though she may have been the tall woman on the floor to my right in a cloak watching Apostille during his set. Maybe. Onstage, she was sans cloak in an indigo velour dress. As usual, she got down to business with little ado.
Molly Nilsson is a supremely D.I.Y. musician. She had made six albums by herself completely [writing, recording, producing, designing, releasing] before asking for two guest performers to grace her last two albums beginning in 2017. She has always sang over her MacBook playing back the song. This is the essence of her gig. It’s as straightforward as she can make it and still be responsible for only herself. Nevertheless, I see that there’s differing opinion on the wisdom of her performance style. The top reviews at Songkick have a lot of scorn for what they call “karaoke.” But I think they are missing the point. When Molly Nilsson makes music it is a largely solitary thing for her. If she had a band playing behind her it would then be a production far and away from her D.I.Y. ideals. And that would be a compromise from where I’m standing. I think the solitude of her touring style compliments her music rather well.
That said, the hints of gothic melancholy that powered her earlier music have receded a bit to allow a more confident pop style emerge with a tiny concession to entertainment values in the shape of a red sequin “beauty mark” under her left eye and a completely new to me palette of tunes that have definitely moved on a bit from the introspective melancholy of old to allow shards of pop euphoria to pierce the music. Molly has even loosened up enough to dance along to some of her more [dare we say] anthemic new songs. She’s no longer the shrinking violet of old while still being a far cry from this business called “show.” After years of circling the globe, she’s shedding a little of the introversion that defined her persona early on.
I think all of the songs she sang this evening came from her last three albums. They all seemed new to me with the bulk of them coming from last year’s “20/20,” now that I have a copy. Since her setup is so simple, all she really has to do is get the right coloration on her vocal PA that matches her penchant for a Cocteau Twins-like fascination with reverb. She has a body of work that is coherent and unified as she is making her way personally and artistically through the minefield of the 21st century. Referring obliquely to the miasma of the now through the body of songs like “Every Night Is New” or “1995” from the “Zenith” album.
Thankfully, she still performed her usual hour long headlining set in spite of being relegated to the middle position in the lineup. I had been afraid that she might have a 30 minute slot, but that was not the case. The full house at The Mothlight, perhaps ostensibly, to see Deerhunter, treated her well. I found it touching when at the end of her set, she bowed stiffly and blew kisses to the receptive audience. It was very different seeing Ms. Nilsson with so many others. The shows I caught in 2012-2013 were in a much smaller venue with as many as 60-80 people there. She has written a steady stream of insightful songs that no longer just flirt with pop from the shadows. They show that she may fully embrace it while retaining all of the beguiling charm of her songbook. I just hope it’s not six more years before I see her sing again.
Here’s further itinerary taking her from tonight in Philadelphia to Sweden in May.
Molly Nilsson | North America | 2019
12 Mar. | Philadelphia, PA | PhiMoca
13 Mar. | Brooklyn, NY | Elswewhere Hall
15 Mar. | Boston, MA | Lilypad
16 Mar. | Montreal, QC | Théâtre Fairmount
19 Mar. | Toronto, ON | The Horseshoe Tavern
20 Mar. | Chicago, IL | The Empty Bottle
21 Mar. | Milwaukee, WI | he Ivy House
24 Mar. | Columbus, OH | Ace of Cups
25 Mar. | Bloomington, IN | The Blockhouse
26 Mar. | Nashville, TN | Exit/In
27 Mar. | Memphis, TN | Artemisia Studios
29 Mar. | San Antonio, TX | Rathskeller
31 Mar. | New Orleans, LA | Gasa Gasa
Molly Nilsson | Europe | 2019
03 May | San Sebastian, Spain | Dabadaba
04 May | Barcelona, Spain | Apolo 2
08 May | Zürich, Switzerland | Zukunft
09 May | Geneva, Switzerland | Le Rez
11 May | Paris, France | La Maroquinerie
18 May | Umea, Sweden | Sub
21 May | Stockholm, Sweden | Fasching
22 May | Oslo, Norway | Ingensteds
24 May | Copenhagen, Denmark | Vega
25 May | Malmö, Sweden | Babel
– 30 –
She’s good! I never heard of her before I started reading your blog, so thanks for that. Unfortunately, I can’t go see her in Brooklyn tomorrow night as I have another obligation.
Jeremy – I know how you feel. Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets will be playing Asheville at The Orange Peel the night before we see Mott The Hoople in Cleveland next month. At least we saw their wonderful gig in 2017! And at least you live in NY, where you can be assured of getting a stop in most every artists tour.
I’ve been enjoying her stuff for a while. I do think she could fight the criticism of her “karaoke” performing style by simply introducing the setup to the audience. Touring is EXPENSIVE when you haven’t got big label bucks behind you, and band members are easily the most expensive part of that. Simply saying that she wrote and performed all the instruments of the original songs herself and thus using the MacBook to keep ticket prices low should be sufficient to win most people over to her — especially after she starts singing!