Joanna Newsom Kicks Off Hollywood Cemetery Residency

Joanna Newsom, perhaps the most famous harpist in popular culture since Harpo of the Marx Bros., is back to performing live after taking a long hiatus.

The singer/songwriter/actress (and long-time wife of Andy Samberg) has put recording new material on the back burner after 2015's Divers which debuted atop the Billboard's Alternative Album chart.

In March of last year she surprised Fleet Foxes fans by secretly opening for them in downtown LA and live debuting five tunes currently titled "Bombs Are Whistling", "Marie at the Mill", "Little Hand", "The Air Again", and "No Wonder," in a seven-song solo set.

But then fans didn't hear from her until last week when she played in Salt Lake City at the Kilby Block Party. The perfect warm up gig to a four night residency at Hollywood's most famous cemetery? Sure, why not.

At Kilby, though, speaking of the dearly departed, Newsom paid tribute to her former engineer, Steve Albini, who died earlier this month, and who was on the board for Ys and Divers.

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In the short-lived Irish music magazine Foggy Notions, in the early 2000s, Joanna, ignoring the fact that Albini hated being called a producer, said he was the best one.

"I was of the opinion, and definitely remain of the opinion, that Steve's pretty much the best producer in the world. I know it's a huge statement, but I honestly think it could be said of him," she gushed. "He has an incredible, magical touch...It's incredible what he can capture, you know, the spirit, the immediacy and the intimacy... Steve had to get a really good harp and vocal recording in order to sufficiently lay the foundation, to reference the sound and feel."

Albini, known to hold back on compliments, returned the sentiment with the harpist.

"She is a such a total badass on that instrument. It's hard to imagine anyone making a big cumbersome and delicate instrument like a harp totally kick ass, but she owns that thing," he said.

She would later compliment him on Marc Maron's podcast in 2017.

Before she played “Cosmia,” one of the cuts off of Ys Albini recorded, Newsom told the audience how emotional it had been for him once she learned he had died.

“So the last few days have been pretty sad because of the loss of Steve Albini, who I love very, very much and admire in every possible way you can admire a person,” she said from behind her harp.

Joanna Newsom at the Kilby Block Party.

“I was saying to my friend this morning that like on the list of all the reasons why he’s my hero, music and music-related stuff doesn’t even crack the top ten. He’s been so enormously important in my life musically for so many years, but still just as a human, as a person, as a hilarious, loving, loyal friend to so many people. I miss him. I’m gonna miss him so much. I haven’t accepted it yet," she said.

"I can't believe I can't record with him again," she continued. "I love you Steve. This one's for you."

"Cosmia" was not on her set for the first of four nights at the Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever cemetery on Wednesday, May 15.

Of the 15 songs she performed on the grounds that are the final resting spots for Chris Cornell and Johnny Ramone, just three were from Ys. The majority were from the forthcoming album (which has yet to be named) and 2010's Have One on Me.

Of the new songs she played was the gentle "No Wonder" which has now been performed a total of three times.

While fans were thrilled to have Joanna back plucking the strings and tickling the ivories, on Twitter they were also in love with the merch that was available at the performance just off Santa Monica Blvd.

And yes, we can't blame them for their joy.

Joanna Newsom has five more shows left on her four-night stand at the Masonic Lodge, a venue where alternative performers like M Ward, Karen O, and Sea Wolf have drawn audiences to.

Best part of this residency... especially if you are a parent to youngsters under 18... she has two gigs there especially for kids (and their minders). Tickets available through her website.

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Last updated: 18 Jun 2024, 14:16 Etc/UTC