Whether singing alongside her brother in the Fiery Furnaces or as frontwoman of her own band, Eleanor Friedberger has always cut a singular figure, askew to her surroundings. The same is true at the Moth Club: festooned with lametta, the ceiling a sky of gold glitter, the room is more suited to gaudy cabaret turns than this heavy-fringed woman dressed in khaki and denim. There’s an earthy timbre to her voice, too, making her sound like a sepia reminiscence of 1960s Greenwich Village, albeit with 21st-century concerns: Scenes from Bensonhurst, she tells us, is about “being paranoid before Instagram”, while Does Turquoise Work? covers “being paranoid after Instagram”.
She doesn’t say much between songs, but she doesn’t need to: the lyrics have a conversational tone, albeit more suggestive of the talking one does to oneself. And because it’s just her on stage with an acoustic guitar and some pedals for the odd wail of psychedelia, that intimacy is even more pronounced. Standing close to the stage feels like sitting in her bedroom, flicking through photo albums; each song assembles shards of memory that are vivid in quotidian detail – the colour of someone’s hair, the cut of someone else’s trousers – yet leave space for the imagination. “I couldn’t get her out of my head,” she sings on When I Knew, “so we ended up mmm mmmm.”
There’s a line in Because I Asked You, from her latest album, New View, in which she mentions stage fright, and it’s clear she feels exposed up there – the more so when her fingers tangle over chords. Her last song, Sweetest Girl, clatters to a halt in the middle, and her natural disappointment unexpectedly crystallises what makes Friedberger so appealing: emotionally direct, she comes across very human, and as singular as we all are.