The Dissection Room is not really well set up for a seated show; it’s a weird shape and as it tapers away towards the bar you end surprisingly far away for such a small room. However, there’s a cosy intimacy in the use of the space in this way and if you can bag a seat in the main rows it’s a rare opportunity to see an iconic figure in such close proximity.
And as soon as Hersh begins to sing on Eyeshine, that iconic voice is immediately recognisable: whether sneering derisively or whispering coyly, it’s a treat to hear Hersh able to emote so clearly amdist such sparse arrangements. It simply acoustic guitar and cello (courtesy of Cello Pete) tonight, which fits plenty of the songs, though a few feel like retroactive demos shoehorned into an acoustic setting.
Almost every song from new album, Clear Pond Road, is played but there are plenty of treats from the back catalogue, particularly the famous opener of Hips and Makers, Your Ghost, which features an unknown(?) gent on backing vocals (for one song only). There’s also Gazebo Street (encore part one), Sundrops and Teeth, as well as a half dozen fairly random Throwing Muses songs, forming the best of the oldies.
The set is split in half, but there’s little in the way of a theme to either as Hersh and Pete select songs mostly on the fly. The plaintive, shimmering cello is a good counterpoint to the occasionally harsh, twangy acoustic guitar (more than one intro has the feel of Unplugged-era Nirvana).
Hersh is chatty throughout, adding a little context to songs with stories about cockroaches or life in New Orleans. There’s a low-key energy to the performance, capped off a short book reading from her latest, Seeing Sideways, to close the main set. The audience are marvellously quiet, whether enraptured or simply polite it’s hard to say, but it turns out to be a lovely setting to hear some old favourites in a new way.