Jessica Pratt sits nearly still onstage at Heimatafen for a hair over three-quarters of an hour on Tuesday night.
Leg over leg, pitched a little into the cubic(3) of her wide-body acoustic, with one boot glossy in the Aperol light, its couple tucked away dry under a chairwing. She twitches her elbows and crooks her wrists, crimps her fingers and tilts her chin a little floorwards to sing as the fringe of a tree pitching gently might give a shy breeze away. She is otherwise mannequinly, as though plinth-posing for a crowd of tipsy sketch amateurs. Maybe she knows and we don’t that this is the gist of the gig.
Some ~400 people (listed venue capacity + sold out show +/- truants/off-shift staff/sundry elbow rubbers) sit too, in two dozen rows on the floor of the hall and a single-file horseshoe round the Saal mezzanine, equally still but for spare trips to the tinkling bar and the usual fidgeting. We move on cue to clap about every third minute, when the last graces from Pratt’s strums and plucks have settled into plank nooks and curtain folds and are listening themselves to the silence. We are glad to fidget with our tic’ing hands, and she coo-whispers thanks or thanks so much or naught and keeps on pretty heedless. Between the tiers of player and played, it’s brief and business-y.
Her performance was, at end, neither hypnotic nor soporific, but plainly pleasant. That’s not intended to be indicting, edifying or insightful, but, as best as can be, an affecting of her own melodeering. She played her newest record, Quiet Signs, in whole and out of its LP sequence, with one counting hand full of other singles sewed in alongside. She offered no odd cover homages, spieling views into touring life, or annotations to stanza geneses; just more of the same stuff we’d (all (probably)) heard before. Subtle perks of the show’s liveness emerged here and there, such as the elongated, palpable ebb of the strings’ hum in the venue’s uppers like a chorus, as well as a constant accompaniment – provided on keyboard and several synths by partner Matthew McDermott, who is credited three times on Quiet Signs – that both enriched and disrupted the shorn-down pairing of voice and guitar.
At set’s end, Pratt and McDermott went off for all of twenty seconds, before she returned alone with her guitar. She thanked her opener, her partner, and a friend who’d managed to get hold of a throat lozenge before 10 PM. The stop was Pratt’s 12th in 15 nights, on the back half a tour that will move her through 17 cities in north-western Europe in three-and-a-half weeks. It could be that she was tired or bored or slung with any other of the sundry sentiments we carry daily into our jobs. Whatever the case may be, she came by and did all the work she’d promised, if no more, and that is something unto itself worth being thankful for.