My Brightest Diamond | 12.03.06

I decided to take a new approach: I handed off my pad and pen to nearby concert-goers, hoping that their thoughts might better capture the honest reaction of fans without egos to feed…


Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, St. Louis

One common problem among writers is our constant desire to woo readers with words. Yes, it's part of the job, but it can easily become overkill. We just can't get resist inserting globs of clever references and senselessly big words ("hey there, Pitchfork, how ya doin'?"… See?). This can especially be a problem when trying to describe a performance where the act's beauty is in its simplicity. This was the challenge I encountered while watching My Brightest Diamond, the alter ego of Shara Worden. Therefore, in an attempt to offset my own temptation, I decided to take a new approach: I handed off my pad and pen to nearby concert-goers, hoping that their thoughts might better capture the honest reaction of fans without egos to feed…

Another common problem among writers is that brilliant ideas tend to backfire.

"Ethereal sounds that hit the rafters and rhythmically circulate for the duration," said one note.

"Like a funeral march of steel stilettos hammering out of my skin," said the next.

"Nearly Celtic trills and lofty, floating, and feminine softness-like floating underwater past some great tribal ceremony," said yet another.

"She growls like Björk," said mine.

Great. They're better than me.

Not that any of their sentiments were wrong (because they were all dead-on), but this is the part of the movie where the main character gives the camera the "I can't believe that just happened" look.

The crowd's poetic skills aside, the majority of the audience seemed to feel the same about this impressive new act: that they were talented, enjoyable, and capable of inducing goosebumps. Though Worden has been making music literally her entire life, until now it was usually in a supporting role. Most recently, she has performed as Sufjan Stevens' right-hand woman in the studio and on tour. However, as anyone who attended shows on Stevens' latest run can attest to after seeing MBD's double-duty as the opening act, Worden is a more than capable front woman. In fact, though bassist Nate Lithgow held down the groove perfectly and Dave Berger's drumming was flawless, Worden's vocals were and always will be the star of the show. My Brightest Diamond's Web site brags of her voice "channeling the vocal theatrics of Kate Bush, the soulful seductiveness of Nina Simone, and the gothic pop of Portishead." If anyone deserves a raise, it's whoever wrote that. In fact, if her entire set had consisted of solo vocal efforts like her opening cover of Simone's "Feeling Good," few would have complained.

Taking the stage in a zebra-striped dress and pink tights, Worden's look strangely matched a sound that uncannily combined modern accessibility with eerie timelessness. Her songs ranged from creepy odes to dead birds ("The Robin's Jar") to perfectly chosen covers (crowd-favorite "Tainted Love"… you heard right) to tunes that would fit fine on the Amelie soundtrack ("Magic Rabbit"). But the night's best moments were when Worden's passion shined through, even when she wasn't singing. She joyfully bounced guitar notes against her band mates' instruments on "Workhorse." She flailed freely on "Something of an End." She took her own advice on "Freak Out" (as did the crowd). And she shyly blushed and thanked the crowd as she realized how fully lost she'd gotten inside her own music on "Golden Star." Her voice was sultry, spooky, frail, and otherworldly.

Though flowery words can't adequately describe the emotion she conveys, one scribble from my notepad might be able to: "I keep digging my nails into long-lost bubblegum under the table to control my excitement. It gives me chills." Maybe my plan worked after all. | Aaron Brummet

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