Paradoxical Undressing

The first time I remember ever being told I was a pretty good singer was by my best girlfriend sometime in the late 1990s. We were in the front seat of a car, her car I think, and we were singing along to a few songs from the Throwing Muses cd University. We sounded great. At the end of a track, probably “Hazing”, she complimented my voice, and me – in my then horribly inappropriate way of accepting a compliment – carelessly bypassed the delay that keeps the stupid thoughts from spilling off of my tongue and I cheerfully blurted “thank-you-I’ve-never-even-had-vocal-lessons”. She had. I still feel like an ass for that moment.

Since then, and likely unrelated to the lack of tact I possessed that afternoon (or evening, whenever it was has faded in importance), my friend and I grew apart. To this day I still think of her when I listen to Throwing Muses. Last night I saw Kristin Hersh live at the Southbank Centre in London. She was reading stories from her upcoming book Paradoxical Undressing, a memoir inspired by her teenage diaries, recently lost in a flood. Kristin, alone on an intimate stage, would noodle automatic and often mournful cords and anti-cords on her guitar while reading from a notebook of very personal experiences. The noodling would lead into a song inspired by the passage read. The lights would go down for the songs and up again for the reading. Behind her, the giant video screen slowly panned enlargements of the paintings of Molly Cliff Hilts. The performance was personal, and insightful. If this was a glimpse of the content of the memoirs, then it is a must have. Kristin’s writing style has captivated me for years and I often wondered where the imagery in her songs stemmed from. Now I know more. I am both honoured and thankful.

It’s a shame the tour is so very limited – two dates in the UK, also the first performances of the tour – but even so, the rareness of what I’ve seen feels like a little gift. See Paradoxical Undressing if you can, and watch for the upcoming book. This is powerful stuff and not to be missed.

I need to thank Barry for getting fantastic seats to this, and for allowing me to be his date even though he should’ve been sitting with someone else. If it weren’t for his broken heart, I would make a joke here.

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Above: Photos I took from the evening. The first, shows how close we were to the stage. Third row, off to the right. AWESOME. The second shows a blurry zoom (purposely without flash) between the heads of the row in front of us. Kristin is in dressed in casual white with her hair pinned up. My mind doesn’t work right when it comes to remembering things. These photos will help keep it all real for me a little bit longer.

UPDATE: Here’s some pictures from someone who had the right gear for the job.

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