Kristin Hersh contains multitudes, and the only downside is that a single evening could never capture her complex body of work. Damned if she doesn’t give it all she’s got, just the same.
At City Winery Philadelphia, Hersh brought her signature intensity to some of the most haunted songs strewn throughout her solo catalog, including “Your Ghost,” “Your Dirty Answer,” “Gazebo Tree” and—perhaps most deliciously—“Mississippi Kite,” as well as Throwing Muses gems like “City Of The Dead” and “Slippershell.”
Hersh didn’t chat much, other than a running joke about still being on Serbian time and brief intros to “The Cuckoo” (the only lullaby her parents sang to her that wasn’t a murder ballad) and “Bywater” (reiterating that the Freddie Mercury going down the toilet in the song—a highlight of Throwing Muses’ 2020 album Sun Racket—is a deceased, mustachioed goldfish and not a deceased, mustachioed rock star). But if jet lag had any effect on the music, it was just to scatter a bit of salt in the cranky, crooked corners, adding the slightest edge to the rasp and howls we know and love, a little extra tang to savor.
You can’t quibble with Hersh’s performance—flawless—or her setlist, which represented nearly three decades, multiple musical modes and radically different approaches to songwriting while serving as compelling proof points of a singular mind. And yet, she barely dipped into her prolific pandemic-era output, leaving us wanting more from Sun Racket and longing for even a taste of her “other” band 50 Foot Wave, whose Black Pearl is one of the best things to come out of 2022. Ah, well, maybe another time.
Hersh’s former fellow Muse and current flame Fred Abong opened with songs of love, longing and doubt, showcasing new album Yellowthroat.
—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich