Kristin Hersh – Unbound, Spiegeltent, Edinburgh International Book Festival – 16th August

Last night saw Kristin Hersh’s first performance of the week at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The show was part of the Skinny’s ‘Unbound’ free and unticketed series of events within the Spiegeltent. And the first positive of the night was how quickly the tent filled up, clearly with a group of dedicated Hersh fans.

The performance itself was effectively an informal ‘Paradoxical Undressing’ show with readings from Kristin’s book filling in between songs.

But, despite a very similar format, the stripped back nature of the show meant that this was actually quite a different show to a normal ‘Paradoxical’ event.  Why? Well for much of the songs during a normal PU, Kristin is little more than a silhouette against the projections, emphasising the songs themselves. Without the visuals, the focus was very much on Kristin’s performance, and in this regard getting in early had its clear rewards – to be able to watch such a compelling performer at very close quarters.

The readings leant perhaps towards the lighter side of the book but to hear the author herself read her words only emphasises what an extraordinary book it is.

Musically too the show lived up to expectations. With a range of material Throwing Muses material from ‘Fish’ through to ‘Sunray Venus’, there were also selected solo tunes.

And what I continue to be astounded by when I see Kristin perform, is the range that she bring to these shows. Nothing better illustrates that than the version of ‘Speed and Sleep’ played last night.

On the face of it, it’s not the obvious candidate for a solo acoustic reading given its, well, headbanging conclusion. But somehow Krisitin coaxes the appropriate level of intensity from the song for one of several hairs on the back of the neck moment, seasoned Hersh followers know all too well.

Tonight Kristin does a more traditional Book Festival performance in Charlotte Square before on Thursday and Friday she does 2 ‘Paradoxical’ shows at the Cabaret Voltaire.

Some photos from the show here.

An extract from the performance here.

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