William Fitzsimmons’ music is not what you want to play at your next house party, unless it’s a suicide party – his words, not mine. The American folk artist gave an incredibly simple performance on Monday night at Le Poisson Rouge, though beautiful nonetheless. His opener, Laura Burhen, also gave a powerful yet minimalistic performance as she sang plenty of covers and originals for us on her piano. It was refreshing to watch Laura, who not only has a gorgeous voice, but who is also so passionate about using her voice to stand up for what she believes in. She dedicated a piece to the people of Standing Rock and was not shy about her feelings against the Dakota Access Pipeline, with much positive reinforcement from the crowd. It’s always empowering to see artists use their music to inspire others and discuss important issues of our time, whether of politics or human rights, and I’m comforted by Laura’s honesty and thoughtfulness. I adored her cover of Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel No. 2, a song close to Laura’s heart as she has a formative history living in New York City years ago. She also performed a stripped down version of her two latest releases Apples & Oranges and Good Medicine, unleashing a more subdued, ethereal sound in contrast to that of her indie-pop band The Mynabirds.
William Fitzsimmons soon comes on stage and after two songs, states that the enlightening part of the show is over, really bringing the giggles to us all. For someone whose music encompasses such emotional depth, or as some people may label as depressing, Fitzsimmons was funny and talkative with his listeners, laughing often in his own self loath. He played songs from all his albums and was accompanied by a female vocalist with the most angelic voice. A truly vulnerable artist who is simultaneously a storyteller, whether he was singing about his bruised relationship with his father or his heart-breaking divorce, Fitzsimmons was full of good-spirits and hope. He played some of his most popular songs like I Don’t Feel It Anymore, Fortune, and Beautiful Girl, though the songs I felt most connected to were Falling On My Sword and his acoustic version of Matter, both off his latest album. The live performance sounded even better than the record, and I know everyone left feeling much at peace. Fitzgerald captivated his audience with a mesmerizing simplicity that is so palpable live, and it’s moments like these that make me grateful for my ears.