Portland-based singer-songwriter Laura Veirs and her band the Hall of Flames, having recently just completed a successful tour of Europe, stopped in to the Larimer Lounge Friday in support of her new LP “July Flame,” which is rightfully being hailed as her finest work — a collection of spare, beautiful folk punctuated by her earthy lyrics.
Veirs, who was raised in Colorado Springs, and the three-piece band — consisting of members of opening acts Cataldo and Old Believers — swapped places on violin, electric guitars, bass, keyboards and minimal percussion to present an intimate and transcendent evening of music. The short but sweet hour-long set, which began with “Life Is Good Blues,” consisted mostly of the deceptively simple tunes of “July Flame,” with Veirs’ sublime vocals and masterful acoustic guitar and banjo-picking taking center stage.
Numbers like the gorgeously gentle “When You Give Your Heart,” along with “Summer Is the Champion,” “Where Are You Driving?” and “Silo Song” were highlighted by perfectly honed vocal harmonies between all players — something that’s truly a wonder to hear in a live setting. “Carol Kaye” saw multiple band members taking on the lush vocal harmony originally provided by Jim Jones of My Morning Jacket on the LP.
Clearly comfortable in the small setting of the Larimer Lounge, wearing her trademark specs, with her hair in pigtails, Veirs had a charming demeanor and in between songs engaged the rapt crowd, encouraging them to ask questions of the band as they took time to tune or swap instruments between songs. Most questions asked were geared towards Veirs pregnancy — she’s due in five weeks — to which she amicably provided answers. To further engage the audience, the band organized a sing along and a good-old-fashioned hoe down clap along during the traditional folk tune “Cluck Old Hen.”
Along with the clear crowd favorites, “I Can See Your Tracks,” and the title track, “July Flame,” the band also shone on a delicate, surprising cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Going Back Again.”
After a short break the band returned and gave the audience two more songs, including a gem in the light twang of “Sun Is King,” and the heart-wrenching closing number, “Make Something Good.” With lyrics like “I wanted to make something good… I wanted to make something strong… I wanted to make something pure… it’s gonna take a long, long time but we’re gonna make something fine,” the tune is easily applicable to a number of interpretations, not least of all, to that of an expectant mother. It was a touching sentiment and a title equally as fitting to the end of an evening where Veirs and company had clearly created something else just fine.
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Michael Behrenhausen is a Denver-based writer, musician and occasional Reverb contributor.