Saturday, November 10
M. Ward last played Wellington at the start of 2007 – the show was a stunner, one of the best I’ve seen, perhaps the greatest example of a soloist commanding the audience’s attention for the duration of a set. In the time since he was last a visitor to our shores he’s sold his talent short forming a whimsy-duo with actress Zooey Deschanel (She & Him) but perhaps he had some fun and made some money.
The real story, still, is in seeing Ward solo, his voice so clear, pure. His guitar playing really quite extraordinary but served up as if it’s no big deal; an occasional prowl of the stage while he’s nonchalantly shouldering the work of a whole band in his one-man sound.
There’s the feel of early Tom Waits in the stage character, the sound of early Paul Simon in the songs and the heart and soul of M. Ward on offer in tunes that buzz and hum with brilliance, that offer insight, that never rush, that create a space around them – you drink them in, the songs pour from the stage and there’s understatement from the music and the man. At any one moment, at every moment, just enough is being said.
Songs from his recent album, A Wasteland Companion, played nicely alongside cousins from 2003’s Transfiguration of Vincent and the one-two punch of 2005’s Transistor Radio and 2006’s Post-War. There was a tune from the Monsters of Folk supergroup too.
Covers of Buddy Holly’s Rave On and David Bowie’s Let’s Dance were further highlights; his version of the Bowie song was the business card he introduced himself with for many; his moment of discovery.
And a final cover, T-Rex’s Cosmic Dancer was also part of the magic, because Ward’s way with a song is his own; he bends covers to suit his vision, his version being both a tribute to the artist and its own song entirely.
It was a short set, with a beautiful and sweet intensity. It was virtuoso playing, served with just the slightest shrug. Wonderful.
This review appeared in The Dominion Post – I’ve reposted it here on Off The Tracks due to requests from people wanting to view it online