Big Thief are magnetic, and they proved it to their Melbourne fans

The most obvious thing about Big Thief’s gig was when Adrianne Lenker stepped onstage, a tiny universe began to form around her, and for a moment everyone was in her orbit. It was remarkable simply due to the fact that she’s so down to earth.

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Joshua Braybrook

Weaving through a solid set of tracks from both of their studio albums (and a couple of new ones), the Howler crowd were treated to an insight into what makes the Brooklyn-based band so magnetic.
The set opened a little haphazardly, with a false start on the lyrically astounding ‘Orange’, but the mistakes only added to the charm. As the song wrapped, a few keen-eyed punters noticed one of the band members was missing. “Where’s Buck?” they asked, referring to guitarist Buck Meek.
“He’s recording another album,” replied Lenker. It could’ve been a conversation between two mates having a smoko, it was so casual.
That became the flavour of the night – the band would play a couple of songs, and then stop to have a chat. After working their way up through a few laid-back tunes, Lenker recounted tales of being followed by mangled possums in a Melbourne park and thinking she was going to die. Then they ripped into the driving ‘Masterpiece’ and barely stopped for a breather before merging into a brand new track.
The mantra-like lyrics on ‘Mary’ left Lenker literally breathless. Though the band has an air of being meek and mild, the set really showcased their rough and loose side, with many killer solos delivered by Lenker – some screeching up to volumes that sounded like they would break the speakers. That being said, she also got only a few strums into ‘Real Love’ before clarifying with the audience if they’d like to hear it, and would occasionally stop a song, change her mind, and play another one. It’s the kind of vulnerability that’s incredibly endearing.
After coasting through crowd favourites ‘Capacity’ and ‘Pretty Things’, the band took a request from the audience: ‘Hayley’ – a song usually reserved for acoustic guitar, but Lenker did her best to recreate the sound on the electric she brought with her. It was received well, with one audience member demanding they play for ten hours. The fact that they thought it was possible was a testament to the totally different atmosphere created by Big Thief.
The set wrapped up with signature track ‘Mythological Beauty’, and the appropriate finality of ‘Terminal Paradise’. “This song’s about death, so I thought it was a good way to end the show,” Lenker justified, before explaining that her long-term fear of death had started with watching Deep Impact at seven years old. The audience weren’t about to let them go easily, demanding encores until the band came back to play four more songs.
Their bittersweet, introspective lyrics will haunt the minds of audience goers for years to come, but it was their close-friend approach to the crowd – and finding time for everyone’s favourites – that really cemented Big Thief as one of the most enjoyable gigs you can go to.
Highlight: The amazing guitar solo on ‘Real Love’.
Lowlight: The houselights accidentally coming up in the middle of the gig. Nearly blinded everyone.
Crowd Favourite: ‘Mary’.