Kristin Hersh – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth 7th November 2016

By Keith 'Mr Teeth' Sandys

In a world flooded with singer songwriters playing at open mics up and down the country, the Throwing Muses front-woman has plenty she could teach the younger generation about going solo. Taking to the stage with her beloved telecaster and a handful of books, tonight of course wasn’t an open mic down your local but simply billed as “An evening with Kristin Hersh”.

There was no support for the all seated affair, making for an early start and early finish. Kristin Hersh opened with a new number, before joking “people hate new songs” as she explained the pre-tour advice given to her by close friends - regarding trying new material.

It wasn’t long until there was an old Throwing Muses track and a recital from the bands last release, 'Purgatory/Paradise', a book-come-double album. This was a performance where you were then welcomed into the life of Kristin Hersh with open arms, an intimate show of poetry and the spoken word, alongside beautifully sung tracks of her own releases.

Kristin’s style switches from confessional lyrics and folky compositions, to a more jagged edge when recreating those songs originally performed alongside her former bandmates. The delivery in her reading from the likes of children’s publication 'Rat Girl' had the audience hanging on every word, only for the listener to be slightly put off by the rumblings of the venues air conditioning.

There were times when certain chapters were slightly missing their context spoken alone although the Vic Chesnutt (RIP) cover, sandwiched between two such readings (taken from the book 'Don’t Suck, Don’t Die') was rather fitting – given Kristin Hersh had written the book, as a tribute to times spent with the late American folk singer.

It was still 'Your Ghost' from Kristin Hersh’s debut solo album 'Hips and Makers' that I had been most looking forward to hearing. I’d forgotten how much I loved this song until recently, so experiencing a stripped-down version was something of a treat. Kristin Hersh doubling up her haunting voice in order to cover the backing vocals, originally provided by REM’s Michael Stipe.

Following a couple more passages taken from the written book, along with another one or two songs, the end result of the evening was neither an acoustic concert nor a spoken word performance. It may have felt a little disjointed, with Kristin Hersh trying to cover everything all at once, but it was still a rather pleasant way to spend a Monday night. With that the early finish allowed Kristin to meet and greet her loyal fans, sign copies of her new book and let security lock up an hour earlier than usual.