Joanna Newsom Plays Intimate Show With 30 or So Friends

Newsom: "What's with this guitar?" Photo: Getty Images

The big deal about Joanna Newsom's performance last night at BAM, where she presented her astonishing album Ys in its entirety, was that Van Dyke Parks' lush orchestrations were re-created with the help of none other than two dozen members of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. Her touring quartet, the awesomely punny Ys Street Band, then casually took up some older songs with her, but the night's highlight came after they too exited the stage. Newsom, alone with her harp and surrounded by empty chairs and detritus of both an orchestra and a rock band, presented a haunting, “mostly finished” new track called “Esame” (hear another live version here) that prompted a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd. But that was only the nicest of the night's surprises, which ranged from new arrangements (“Inflammatory Writ” done slow and twangy) and a tribute to the folkie Karen Dalton to impassioned endorsements of Mr. Barack Obama. We're pretty certain none in attendance regretted missing the Democratic debate. —Ehren Gresehover