Bashful and Blissful: Big Thief at The Barras ⭑⭑⭑⭑

by Rachel Cronin

Brooklyn’s brilliant indie-folk quartet Big Thief brought their best to the Barrowlands on Friday 25 February, promoting their alluring new album, the 20-song ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You’.

We were introduced to the sold-out show by Big Thief themselves, who humbly presented their cosmic support act KMRU. His unorthodox ambient music beautifully encapsulated and introduced us to the energy of the gig that was to follow- spirituality, simplicity and togetherness, and music that warms the soul. KMRU, alone onstage with his laptop, created the tunnel through which we crawled to emerge into the musical universe of Big Thief.

Lead singer Adrianne Lenker ushered us further into their world with the opening song Promise is a Pendulum, one of the most quietly enchanting tracks from the freshly released album. Tuning her guitar with her black hood up, she resembled a friend or family member, preparing us for a living-room concert- just one of the many ways Big Thief reminds us of home.

Drummer James Krivchenia echoes a younger Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac- shoulders hunched, mouth widened into a cartoon grin, elevating the energy and ecstasy in the room in Red Moon, one of the catchiest country-style songs of the group’s two-hour set. The only criticism to be found is the lack of a fiddle accompanying the vigorous tracks, a quintessential feature from the album.

However, the kaleidoscopic gig was not meant to be merely a robotic replaying of pre-recorded songs, but a live rendition of the enlightened band’s genius, who treated us to several never-before-heard songs that didn’t make it onto the final cut of the album.

Lenker’s ability to read a room did not go unnoticed, and she respectably had no issue identifying that the crowd were not connecting to one of the most intricately written and emotional songs of the new collection, 12,000 Lines. 

“I just don’t feel like this room is ready for this song.” explained a seemingly discouraged Adrianne, in a justified critique of a lot of the crowd’s behaviour. What would’ve otherwise been a perfect evening of connectivity and togetherness was tainted for a minute before the moment passed and the song was restarted.

Realising that the Glasgow crowd were responding more to the band’s high-energy numbers, the album’s title track was transformed from its already incredible acoustic and dreamy style into an epic spectacle of rock-folk genius that recaptured the attention of the distracted audience.

The concert drew to a close with Lenker struggling to get the rhythm of the encore number, eventually giving us the practical life advice- “If you can’t do something good, just do it bad.” while carrying on with the song anyway (which sounded faultless as far as the audience was concerned). This human moment illustrated why we love this dynamic group of humble, relatable creators. Big Thief remind us of us. (If we were all graced with musical brilliance.)