Kristin Hersh @ The Lantern, Bristol – 8th November 2016

kristin-croppedDespite – and perhaps because of – her lengthy contrarian career, Kristin Hersh is too often taken for granted.  Not that she makes things entirely easy.  Latterly refusing to compromise with traditionalist record-unleashing routes, flipping between musical outlets (within Throwing Muses and 50 Foot Wave and as a solo artist) and dabbling in the literary world (most notably with her recent Vic Chesnutt memoir-of-sorts, Don’t Suck, Don’t Die) has certainly thrown a few of even her most long-term fans – this writer included – off the scent.

Her latest bout of prolific furrow-ploughing has just brought us the still being digested solo 24-track 2CD and book Wyatt At The Coyote Palace package, which this sold-out show in The Lantern room of Bristol’s Colston Hall was ostensibly promoting.  However, it was far from being a linear ‘new album highlights plus a few of the hits’ performance, which is of course is a good thing in Hershland.

In effect, the evening’s presentation was more about providing a portable voice and electric guitar-led summarisation of what Hersh has been up to these past few years, in amongst some deep-mined back catalogue extractions.  Hence, reeled-out choice cuts from the last handful of releases (notably terrific takes on “Mississippi Kite” and “Flooding” from 2010’s undervalued solo-billed Crooked; a scorching “Sunray Venus” from Throwing Muses’ 2013 Purgatory/Paradise double-LP; and a few spirited box-fresh excerpts from Wyatt At The Coyote Palace) reminded us that we should have been paying her more attention over the last half-decade or so. In-between times there were also readings from Don’t Suck, Don’t Die and album-accompanying books alongside well-recounted anecdotes, all tinged with that unique Hershian humour and pathos.

Rewards for veteran followers were also well-measured and heart-warming; veering from the relatively well-known yearning of “Your Ghost” and the gut-spilling “Your Dirty Answer” to the sublime rare Muses B-side “City Of The Dead” and a goose-bump inducing finale with the vintage “You Cage”.

Whilst Kristin Hersh will forever remain inscrutable and at times somewhat frustrating, night’s like tonight reconfirm why she endures as a singular beacon of paradoxically chaotic yet calming otherworldliness. Long may she ramble…