Touring Oregon trio graced Kreuzberg once again on Sunday 12th February: Jem Bosatta sees Joseph live.
“Last time I was on this stage”, confides Natalie Closner of Joseph to the hushed hundreds before her, “I just wept.”
A few faces in the front row smile with sympathy and nod, remembering. They’re the same people who’ve been blissfully swaying and mouthing every word to the band’s energetic folk-pop numbers, arranged for three voices, guitar and drum block. The latter two are commandeered effortlessly by Natalie, who also sings. Her younger twin sisters, Allison and Meegan, provide melody and exquisite harmony.
“I can’t imagine these sisters exuding anything but calm and charm”
I can’t imagine what the atmosphere was like on the night she’s talking about. I know it was the 9th November of last year; I know that’s a big date for three young, worldly American women (the night after the U.S. election). But having witnessed their return on Sunday, having been part of that warm, welcoming ambience, I can’t imagine these sisters exuding anything but calm and charm. That’s the kind of band Joseph is.
On stage, the twins have got less on their hands than their older sister, and so they get to express themselves more. Their performance in every song, every verse is passionate and unselfconscious. It’s as if they’ve telepathically read each others’ homozygotic hearts and simultaneously sung out what’s there, a neat minor third’s interval apart. “There’s always two thoughts”, they declare in Honest. “I’m alone; no you’re not”.
That’s the kind of message they’re best at: the sort of words you’d whisper in a sibling’s ear when they need it most. “I will love you anyway/With all your demons in the way”, promises Meegan in her achingly beautiful depression song I Don’t Mind. You feel spoken to, reassured – but when she explains her lyrics, she tells us that you can’t accept that message until you’ve said it to yourself.
Stage presence without pretence
It’s pretty profound and emotionally sound advice, considering it’s just mic chat in front of a room full of strangers. The Closner sisters clearly aren’t there to croon wisecracks or preach the producer line: they just chat like they would if they were lined up on a sofa at a dinner party. The Joseph act is so slick that you don’t even think about it as slick, or as an act.
And on the one hand, it’s not an act, because it feels like this is who they really are. On the other hand, it’s not the kind of authenticity that’s rustic and unpolished, that much is also clear: “It was blood and tears/That’s how we got here” (Blood and Tears).
“This space and this atmosphere is the product of years and years of dedication.” At the end, once the club has emptied out, it’s just the band, the staff and a few stragglers. Natalie takes the chance to accost one of the owners with a heartfelt compliment. She didn’t have to say it; she didn’t have to offer to listen to an aspiring fan’s soundcloud mix and then embrace the delighted, starstruck girl; she and her sisters didn’t have to come to the floor after the show and see out the whole queue of fans lined up at the pile of branded T-shirts. But that’s the kind of band Joseph is.
Get your hands on their latest album “I’m Alone No You’re Not” on the official website.
Finally, they’ll be touring Europe in summer for various festivals – keep up to date via their Facebook page.
Student small fry, country boy in the big city, with inky fingers and a travel guitar.