Since being sent the second Tomberlin album I Don’t Know Who Needs To Hear This for review, I’ve been spinning the carefully crafted record continuously, and so the chance to see her perform live at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff – with support from local solo artist Frankie Parris – was one to jump at.
The LA-based, Saddle Creek Records-signed Sarah Beth Tomberlin played a daunting solo set interspersed with commentary on how, when she got home from tour, she had just a few days off before commencing a lengthy US leg. This show, meanwhile, functioned as a bubble for the crowd to exist within, and reemerge between songs.
The silence of the room was contagious as the ice bucket at the bar turned heads. Tomberlin spoke about having a Celtic surname derived from Wales – “do I have any brethren here?” she asks – before commencing another gentle, fingerpicked number. Several of her earlier songs touch on themes of love, isolation and the religious guilt derived from growing up as a pastor’s kid; IDKWNTHT looks at more contemporary issues, like social media on tap.
Having landed on a more expansive, layered folk sound on record with this new album, expanding the Tomberlin sound with strings, occasional horns, and a rhythm section, hearing these same songs live but dialled back makes you, as the listener, take more notice of the vulnerability behind them. Her debut, 2018’s At Weddings, provoked similar feelings on record, and we were lucky to hear a handful of tracks taken from it and Projections, an EP from 2020, when the headliner asked if the crowd had any requests.
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, Fri 6 May
words EMMA WAY photos BEN LEONARD
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