I enjoyed a nice mostly-acoustic trio of sets by the above singer-songwriters at the du Nord last Tuesday. Although I was there mainly to see local artist Kate Isenberg, Cook and Fraser were also good, especially the latter.
I showed up characteristically early and waited in line for about 10 minutes while they did ID checks and will-calls, then nursed a beer at the bar until Amy Cook came on at 7:30. Cook’s one-woman, 30-minute set was a solid acoustic folksy affair, although she had a cold, which didn’t help her hitting the high notes. She was affable throughout – my favorite songs were “Loma Prieta” and “Coming Home,” both from her newest album, “The Sky Observer’s Guide.”
Kate Isenberg took the stage shortly after 8pm with a 3-piece band consisting of bass, drums, and violin, with Kate on vocals and guitar. She played a great set of songs selected from her earlier albums, her excellent newest album, “The Time Comes On Humming Tracks,” and a new piece or two. The band was great, and the drummer in particular had a great energy about him, smiling throughout the show as he played mainly with brushes. Although she didn’t play either of my favorite songs from hew new album, my favorite tracks of the evening were “Coming Home,” “Streetcar to Grace,” and “7 League Boots.” I talked to Kate for a few minutes after her set, one of the nicer things about seeing shows in intimate venues like Cafe du Nord.
Not caring too much for what I thought was her most recent album when I heard the samples on iTunes, I was waffling on sticking around for Brooke Fraser, even though she was the headliner. Kate said she’s a great singer, however, so I decided to check her out, and was very glad I did. I later found out that iTunes’ album dates are not particularly reliable, and that what appears to be Fraser’s newest album is not, and her newest album, titled “Albertine,” is rather good. Fraser took the stage armed with an acoustic guitar, and an accompanist on keyboards, and proceeded to do a great set of acoustic songs for the next hour. She was a charming and funny presence on stage, telling jokes and giving sometimes lengthy explanations about the pieces and herself (she chalked some of this up to jet lag, as she’d just flown in from Sydney). “Albertine,” the title track from her album, was a highlight, as was “C.S. Lewis Song,” and “Hosea’s Wife.” She amusingly explained that the title of “Hosea’s Wife” was chosen because the biblical figure Hosea’s wife’s actual name was Gomer, and who would want to name a song that? Fraser comes across something like Tori Amos in her early days, and has an excellent voice. She seemed genuinely surprised that there were so many people to see her, although with her talent, I imagine she’ll do well.
All told this was a great evening of talented women, a bargain for only $15. Although I love the small setting of Cafe du Nord, their sound system sucks, but this was less apparent in a mostly-acoustic show like this than it was the last time I was here to see metal/rock band Comets on Fire.