Alexandra Kowal ’14 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The Sinclair is a hidden gem located in Harvard Square. It’s an intimate venue, but not too small, and boasts a fine kitchen along with its bars. On October 19th, many enthusiastic fans visited the Sinclair for Mary Lambert’s concert, featuring Jillette Johnson.
Jillette Johnson and guitarist Matt Pynn make quite the dynamic duo. While she lent her stunning vocals to the songs, he was a veritable one-man band – in the course of the show he entertained with guitar, drums, a pedal steel guitar, and more. Their chemistry onstage was charming and they interacted well with the crowd.
Johnson had a lot of new material for the tour, along with old favorites, likely due to the fact that she is in the process of making a new album. Her first album, Water in a Whale, debuted in 2013. She has a beautiful voice and a mellow, soulful style fueled by some impressive piano playing. Johnson even managed to make a song about stalking sound nice. And “True North,” a song about coming home, was both beautiful and relatable.
When it came time to play her last song, Johnson chose to dedicate it to Mary Lambert. A loud, “YEAH!” was heard from offstage, signaling Lambert’s approval. Although Johnson wasn’t prepared to play the song, entitled “Bunny”, she performed it well. It was a dark song, introspective and strange, filled with intriguing unlikely descriptions.
Then, Lambert took to the stage amid raucous cheering. The singer had an immediate rapport with the audience, and wasn’t afraid to poke fun at herself, often joking that she was “the star” of this concert. The funny and talented performer radiated warmth, smiling throughout the concert and thanking everyone for being there to support her. She truly seemed interested in connecting with her fans.
Lambert’s music has a way of reaching into your soul. Her combination of spoken word, impressive vocals, and beautiful lyrics makes for extremely relatable and emotionally compelling songs. Among the songs of the night, she sang a new unrecorded number about bipolar disorder – it states that “some people are just born sad,” but has an upbeat feel with good rhythm – and a song about her own rape, which she prefaced with a trigger warning. She also sang “Body Love,” a song she wrote around six years ago and has been performing ever since. Lambert’s ability to be so vulnerable gives her songs a beautiful raw quality that had many listeners in tears. She ended the concert with her popular single, “Secrets.” However, when she returned to the stage for an encore, she surprised viewers with a soulful rendition of “Jessie’s Girl,” as well as a beautiful performance of the song everyone was waiting for, “She Keeps Me Warm.”
Perhaps the best thing about Lambert, besides her talent, is that she is so unapologetically herself. Between every song, Lambert regaled the audience with personal stories. The concert felt not only like a musical performance, but also a friendly conversation. One of the most important things Lambert brought up was the idea of social change through music. She likes to talk about things are uncomfortable; many of her songs deal with topics like mental illness and body image.
Still, most of Lambert’s songs are simply about love. She believes that empathy will save the world. But she also acknowledges that apparently just writing about love while being a plus-size bipolar lesbian is inherently political. Through her music, Lambert brings up important social issues without sacrificing her unique voice. Not only are her songs beautiful, but they are important to hear.
Earlier in the night, Johnson remarked that she thought this tour was about fierce femininity. She could not have been more right. Both she and Lambert are truly impressive performers.
Lambert’s new album, Heart On My Sleeve, was released on October 14th.