SAN FRANCISCO — The last time Julien Baker played Noise Pop, in 2016, she fell in with the ranks of rising artists. Thursday, she returned as a bonafide success by selling out the Great American Music Hall, and keeping an entire room on pins and needles for more than an hour, just like she did at Bottom of the Hill in February 2016 and last summer at Outside Lands.
The Memphis singer-songwriter performed material off her critically acclaimed debut record, Sprained Ankle, as well as a few new songs and a terrific cover of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To the Moon,” that was so much her own that Sinatra would give her a standing ovation. On this night, the rapt attention of nearly every soul at GAMH was proof enough that critics are right about Baker’s talent as a songwriter and performer.
Baker hit high notes with ease, and her silences also spoke volumes about the pain and heartbreak of her songs. Toward the end of the set, Baker dedicate “Rejoice” to being grateful even during life’s negative moments.
Alongside Baker, the night’s other performances also performed solo, with nothing but a guitar and, in Bobey‘s case, some looping tech. The Oakland musician’s set consisted of looping guitar sounds and vocals that would would weave in and out and finally create the impression of a string band onstage. While looping is no longer a novel concept, Bobey’s variation of it wasn’t typical. Rather than building walls of sound, he lavished in the scarcity of the sounds, not unlike The Postal Service. At times, he sounded like he was playing the harp.
Baker’s friend from high school, singer-songwriter Miserable, was the second performer of the night. She was clearly selling her music with her lyrics, because the rote, repetitive guitar strumming got old quickly. (Even up strokes were reserved to only a few songs). Unfortunately for the artist, her lyrics were muddled, unintelligible, and completely drowned out by her guitar reverb.