MORE than a decade ago a girl named Martha with a famous surname exploded onto the international folk scene with one of the most bitter, and yet emotionally fragile, ballads ever heard.
The song was of course Bloody Motherf—king A--ehole. The sold-out audience at Lizotte’s didn’t get a rendition of that raw tale of cheating, but Martha Wainwright is in a different head space these days.
Happily married to producer Brad Albetta with two sons Arcangelo and Francis Valentine, that familial bliss seeped into her lyrics on last year’s Goodnight City. “It’s generally harder to write mean songs about your kids,” she joked.
Two love songs for her youngest son were performed on the night in the tender Franci and then later the cinematic Francis, a tribute penned by her brother Rufus for his nephew.
Like any parent the Canadian-American folk star said she was initially enjoying a break from motherhood during her three-week tour of Australia to catch up on sleep, but joked she soon found herself “wandering into playgrounds” subconsciously missing her boys.
The first half of the set focused mostly on Goodnight City and it’s melodramatic jazz flourishes. Wainwright, at times, stumbled on her acoustic guitar, but her voice was flawless. It soared and dived through tracks like Around The Bend, Traveller and Before The Children Came Along, written while in tour in Australia.
Wainwright’s three-man backing band never missed a beat. Firstly on the loose jazz numbers and then later on the more straightforward folk-rock songs.
Lead guitarist and keyboardist Tom Gill was particularly impressive and was given his own moment to shine by performing a duet with Wainwright on Love Will Be Born. A song Wainwright wrote only weeks before the tour in London with Ed Harcourt.
Fans of Wainwright’s earlier work were given renditions of Jimi, complete with guitar solo, GBT and Factory to close the show. The night’s most poignant moment came in the encore when Wainwright dropped her guitar to prowl the stage singing Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel #2.
It wasn’t lost on Wainwright that a tribute show that she and her mother Kate McGarrigle and aunt Anna McGarrigle performed for Cohen in 2005 at the Sydney Opera House launched her career in Australia. Now less than a year after Cohen’s passing Wainwright was delivering another moving tribute to a family friend and hero.