Field Report: Amanda Shires

Amanda Shires at The Blue Light on Wednesday, February 11, 2015. Photo by Susan Marinello/New Slang

Amanda Shires at The Blue Light on Wednesday, February 11, 2015. Photo by Susan Marinello/New Slang

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Singer-songwriter Amanda Shires performed at The Blue Light this past Wednesday, Feb 11 in front of a, for the most part, enamored crowd (more on that later). Shires played for roughly an hour, blazing through 13 songs with a story or two here and there. The Lubbock native was joined by fellow former Lubbockite Kris Killingsworth on drums and Stephanie Dickinson on upright bass. 

We were in attendance once again taking notes and snapping photographs. For more Shires, read our last interview with her about Down Fell the Doves here

  • As mentioned before, Shires and company played a set of 13 songs (See setlist below). Naturally, it was heavily dominated by Down Fell the Doves, which accounted for eight of the songs. She didn’t play a single song from West Cross Timbers.
  • “Devastate” had an almost jazzy feel to it. It felt like it could have been an old jazz or pop standard that had been updated. It was a pleasant rendition despite not nearly being as fierce as the studio version. I think you’re able to really hear the desperation that’s really embedded in the song this way. I guess you could say that’s the trade off–the desperation and dejection are more apparent but you don’t get the aggressive violin.
  • I think we always think of Shires as being more of a fiddle player who’s become a singer-songwriter rather than a singer-songwriter who happens to play fiddle. I think the former has been more of the narrative for Shires thus far in her career. And I’m not sure if she’s been wanting to shake that stereotype, but she only played fiddle on two songs. That may not be intentional, but I think it does two things: A) It shows that these songs stand on their own without her having to play fiddle on them in the live setting. You certainly concentrate more on her vocals and lyrics this way. B) It keeps you on edge and anticipating the switch to fiddle. Maybe you cherish the incredible fiddle playing when it eventually happens.
  • More on the “fiddle player to singer-songwriter” transition: Her last three albums have kind of had that transition as well. Obviously, they all have fiddle parts on songs, but I think they rely on her fiddle playing less and less. This is going to generalize her three albums incredibly, but if I were to say what instrument was the heaviest, most dominant, and the most influential on each album, I’d go with this: West Cross Timbers: Fiddle, Carrying Lightning: Ukulele, Down Fell the Doves: Electric Guitar.
  • When she played fiddle on “Look Like a Bird,” it was just spectacular. Her and bassist Stephanie Dickinson were phenomenal with an extended intro and outro in which Dickinson too played the bow on her upright bass. I’ve always felt that the intro fiddle on “Look Like a Bird” was eerily similar to the intro on “Why So Serious?” from The Dark Knight score. In both, there’s this unnerving feeling due to the extended and drawn out bow movements. There’s a droning aspect to the whole thing. I would say this was the highlight of the night.
  • For anyone who’s ever seen Kris Killingsworth perform on drums, it’s no surprise how precise, dynamic, and timely he is on drums/percussion. It was once again on point here as well. I think what makes Killingsworth’s drumming is how little he can play on a song, yet set the entire song up. If there were analytics for drumming, I’d say he’d lead the league in song impact per drum stroke. Going back to “Look Like a Bird,” for the vast majority, he’s just hitting the top of the kick drum with a mallet. But it along with droning fiddle and upright bass aspects, it just sets the tone for this incredibly vast, sharp, piercing song.
  • If Shires was on Game of Thrones, she’s definitely be Arya Stark. I mean, the way Shires plays fiddle is very much in the same way Stark is with her own sword work. Essentially, they’re sharp, piercing. Somehow both elegant and ruthless at the same time. Now obviously you’d never expect Shires to do this, but you can’t help imagine seeing Shires doing this with her fiddle bow sometime. Yes, now I’m just posting my favorite Ayra Stark scenes. No, I don’t care about spoilers.
  • The last time she played The Blue Light, it felt as though more folks were there to hear Shires play. Though there was definitely a majority who came strictly to hear her perform, there was a handful of people who insisted on carrying a conversation amongst themselves. It wasn’t too disruptive except for one specific time when Shires was trying to tell a story between songs. It was about meeting Tiger Bill and the story before “Bulletproof.” She of course handled it well asking them to hush, but I think she was still flustered to an extent by it. 
  • She performed the Leonard Cohen classic “I’m Your Man.” Last time here, she didn’t and I was slightly disappointed in this fact. I think there’s some kind of magic that can happen when a female sings a song that’s obviously from a male’s perspective and doesn’t change the he’s to she’s. I don’t know how to explain it, but I think it has something to do with being able to soften the songs and inject some feminine aspects that we probably overlook when a male sings it.

Setlist

  1. The Garden Song*
  2. Devastate*
  3. Stay*
  4. Bulletproof*
  5. Wasted & Rollin’*
  6. When You Need a Train It Never Comes^
  7. Deep Dark Below^
  8. Swimmer^
  9. Lovesick I Remain^
  10. I’m Your Man (Leonard Cohen Cover)^
  11. Look Like a Bird#
  12. Shake the Walls#
  13. The Drop and Lift*

*Electric Guitar
^ Ukulele
# Fiddle

 

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