Concert Review: Jen Cloher @ Musik & Frieden, Berlin

I’ve only just become a fan of Jen’s music. I think it was an article I read about the making of her new album, though I had definitely heard about her through various media, and through Milk! Records’ newsletter.

I wasn’t a musician tonight. After experiencing similar feelings to how Jen feels on her latest, self-titled record, I want to be a punter and nothing else. I want to experience these songs for what they are, and to accept what the night will bring me.

I take a short walk down to Musik & Frieden near Schlesisches Tor, as I do with many gigs in Berlin as it’s such a walkable city. Being out in the cold also helps you to normalise, and perhaps accept the climate a little. “Forgot Myself” is rattling around in my head, after cranking her latest self-titled album before heading out. To me, the song is so powerful and slow-burning, but its power comes not from the volume in my apartment but in its restraint. Though it is only restrained in some ways. i’ll get to that later.

Hachiku, a fellow Australian is supporting, with a reserved and composed set atop synths.  This is the last date in her European tour, as Jen announces when they come on stage, and you can almost hear the sigh of content relief. The life of a touring muso, indeed, as she explains on Sensory Memory, up and at-em in another place each day.

At first though, they crack the gig wide open. “Forgot Myself”, coming in at the second song in the set, is wild, and it’s already a peak in the show, or more accurately, a marker they set for songs with similar energy later on. They keep the slow-burning energy coming as they progress throughout the night.

When they play, you feel like they’re playing in your living room. Or in theirs. Comfortable, honest chatting with the audience, there’s no “how are ya Berrrrliiiin” here. Thank God or Allah that we still have musicians who know how to talk like real people. The crowd appreciates this. We are all listening intently, and there is a loving vibe in the room.

Courtney Barnett is in her element, quietly and steadily providing guitar and backing vocals and building upon jams within the band.  She is equally talented as a frontperson & songwriter, and as a band member.

Jen Sholakis, on the drums, you can actually see from the middle of the room — this is great as drummers are often tucked away. She is smiling pretty much the whole concert and locked in with Bones Sloane on bass, on par with Robert Sledge as having one of the most perfect bassist names. This is a band that loves what they are doing.

I could sum up the gig in one word — warmth. Though I’m not as familiar with her earlier work, Jen’s latest album and songs have such a homely familiarity to it. Perhaps that’s not describing it the best. What I mean is — when you listen to her music, you feel like you know her. She’s singing to you, even about some subjects that are quite personal.

Jen & the band come back for a few encores, the last of which is a solo song, and is a beautiful way to end the night.

You may say, where’s the articulate detail in this review? Well, I had had a few beers while I was there, and was happily lost in this concert. It was a beautiful wave of good feelings that I needed that night. And I was immensely proud, too — often, you see expats come out in force when an Aussie comes to play, and that was true to some extent, but at least 50% were Berliners or non-Aussies here. And they were with Jen and the band every step of the way (I have read she has done particularly well with UK audiences, also).

It is the eternal dilemma of a reviewer, and indeed as any writer, to come up with words that are profound and descriptive, but not overused or cliched. Before I went to Jen’s concert I was intrigued by her music and her stories.

By the time I left the concert, she sealed the deal and won herself a new fan.

Jen Cloher – Shows

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