Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Intimacy, charm and a small strip of paper steal the show

Photgraph by Ross Zietz

Opening for Mum, an experimental and overly dramatic Icelandic septet, is no easy task, especially when you're just a skinny kid from North Dakota with an acoustic guitar. Trudging onto a stage full of strategically placed microphones and boxes of noisemaking gizmos, Tom Brosseau took his stark vulnerability and made it his greatest asset. His one gadget of the night was a small strip of paper that he placed in between the strings of his acoustic guitar before wordlessly going into his first song, Grand Forks' "Plaid Lined Jacket," taking the opportunity to slow down the howling choruses to better fill Logan Square Auditorium's big empty box. The paper not only dampened the fingerpicking but also added a gentle percussive flair to the otherwise bare-bones ditty about his favorite garment.

His voice is unique, high pitched and slightly raspy but with a slighty country twang. When gently addressing the louder elements of the audience he mentioned that sometimes it's best just to play Hank Williams and Merle Haggard covers (to drive the old classic country point home). Then he began "Brass Ring Blues." For "Here Comes the Water Now," the Mum guitarist came onstage to offer soft accompaniment, albeit unnecessary. Unless it's a piece of paper in the strings or a harmonica, as in the gorgeous "West of Town," this is music that is better left alone. The subtle nuances of his voice and certainly the lyrics, which tell of ghostly towns and rising flood waters, need to be front and center.

For those wanting to witness the grandiose movements of Mum, the solo Brosseau may have seemed like an unwanted delay. But to a good number of folks in the crowd, it was a show-stealing performance for its intimacy and charm. - B. Nanna