St Mary’s Church, Guildford
Anais Mitchell is very at home in Guildford, this being her fourth visit to the town arranged by local promoter Howard Smith. She joked that she misses the same turning driving in each time, and gets stuck in the gyratory for forty minutes – an anecdote that resonated with the audience who welcomed her with the warmth of familiarity.
A very talented songwriter, she has a beautiful voice, gentle with a hard edge, and a relaxed fingerpicking guitar style. There is an aura about her and she kept her audience entranced with beautiful melodies and friendly banter. However she did make the schoolgirl error of asking for requests, then having to admit to the lady in the audience that she didn’t know the number demanded.
Anais opened with a stunning version of Suzanne in tribute to Leonard Cohen and then performed her song Why we build the wall, referencing the US Presidential election and Cohen’s passing by saying “As if you thought that this week couldn’t get any worse.”
Feeling compelled to comment again on the American election she said ”“Don’t disown us because we elected a sociopath for a president, we are all in shock.” and went on to sing her social commentary [Tell me something ‘bout my country, tell me] One Good Thing.
Support came from the excellent Jarlath Henderson, haunting vocals, beautiful guitar and Irish flute, expertly mixing guitar loops with very traditional folk singing.
Anais played a solo set that was mesmerising, taking songs from her back catalogue, including Young Man in America, and two from the Child Ballad album recorded with her friend Jefferson Hamer. Jarlath Henderson joined her for two numbers.
Perhaps the highlight of the set was the encore which was “one more for Leonard” which saw Anais abandon the microphone to sing a magical acoustic version of Famous blue raincoat.