by Catalina Berretta
When Adrianne Lenker stepped on stage at The Sinclair, she was instantly bathed in blue lights and greeted eagerly by the crowd. The room was filled to the brim and everyone seemed antsy to hear her sing after a long wait following the opener. Opening for Lenker was Luke Temple, a close friend of hers. He greeted us in a dad cap and plain blue shirt, claiming Boston as his hometown. Playing the guitar as an extension of himself and with his voice following its melodies with precision, it was clear he shared Lenker’s affinity for detailed storytelling through his songs.
Like Temple, Lenker is all about simplicity. She greeted the audience in a quiet tone and asked: “Where are we? Boston? No, Cambridge. Earth…we think?” before launching into “Mary,” from the 2017 Big Thief album Capacity. If Luke eased us into the sadness, Adrianne left us steeping in it. Eventually, Temple joined her onstage to perform several tracks from their album abysskiss. Produced in one week, abysskiss is a collection of songs written both years ago and days before they began recording. Lenker has time and time again expressed how precious it’s been to produce music and tour with Temple; there is no denying that together, they make beautiful music. Even as they played, their guitars raced each other, almost like they were in their own world, two parallel melodies rising and falling together.
A large part of any concert is how the artist interacts with the audience. Sometimes, artists simply introduce the song they’re about to play, share a personal story or a connection to the city they’re playing in. To a packed room, Adrianne Lenker tuned her guitar relentlessly, refusing to settle for something that might sound out of tune. Even when the silence stretched on awkwardly, Lenker tuned on. The crowd was patient, and apart for some back and forth between Temple and a fan, silent. All that time, Lenker plucked at the strings of her guitar, head cocked to the side, tweaking the tuning pegs in tiny increments. When Lenker spoke to the audience, it was peculiar but precious. At one point, she just smiled at the crowd, said “I’m here… hello,” and the crowd cheered. They adored her.
The weird charisma of Luke Temple along with the genuine and Lenker’s genuine and quaint musings added up to a show meant to be experienced in its raw form: two incredibly talented musicians on a stage, no fanfare, no bullshit. However, given the deep impression that abysskiss leaves on a listener, the concert felt somewhat disconnected from the same intensity of the album. At times, Lenker was magical to watch and we stood transfixed as the sounds of her voice and her guitar washed over us, but it almost felt like she was holding back and suspending us before a steep precipice.
Near the end of the concert, as she tuned her guitar once more, she turned to the audience and said in a sweet voice that she was having an existential crisis. Then, she launched into a monologue that seemed to surprise her as much as it did us: “I just feel, almost as much as there’s all the chaos and destruction, there’s also this thing invisibly connecting us and we see someone hurt and we feel hurt and we see someone alive and we feel alive and we are each other.” The concert may not have evoked the depth of emotion of abysskiss but in that moment, the connection to Lenker felt palpable and it was a delightful surprise to have shared this incredibly special and unexpected moment with her.