Last night M. Ward played a solid hour-long set at Brooklyn’s Union Pool to a cozy crowd of just about 60 or so people. He opened with “Poison Cup” because he surely knows the inner workings of my soul and wanted to make me cry (I teared up, just a bit).
This particular show was announced on July 15th, just an hour before the tickets went on sale. Because of the size of the venue, the tickets sold out in about 15 minutes. Ward addressed some of the questions everyone in the audience was surely thinking – “You’re probably all wondering why this show is even happening. It’s not supporting a new album, I’m not…coming out with a perfume…thank god. The answer is, I don’t really know.” Later in the show he said he was just there to “Play some songs.”
The set was catered to the smaller more intimate event—a couple strictly instrumental songs and nothing too upbeat. (When I saw the piano I was hoping to hear “Big Boat”). One guaranteed treat for all of the dedicated fans present, Ward played “O’brien/ O’brien’s Nocturne” on the piano—not the guitar—telling us that this would be the first time he’s ever done it this way so “Let’s see how it goes.” Most of the set came from the three albums in the middle stretch of his career: Transfiguration of Vincent, Transistor Radio, and Post War. The highlights were absolutely “Eyes on the Prize” and “Carolina” which evoked shouts of joy from the audience. There were a couple newer ones off Wasteland Companion—a slower “I Get Ideas” sans Zooey, “Clean Slate” and “Primitive Girl”—as well as the Daniel Johnston cover of “The Story of an Artist” that he almost always plays at his solo shows.
As a long time fan, this show was pretty much the exact format I’ve always wanted to see him play in. No big tour or surprise appearances by a member of Monsters of Folk. No fuss. Just him and his instruments. Songs that sound like home to me. After finishing off a glass of whiskey and 45 minutes of playing he left the stage, only to be urged back on for an encore by the audience. Humble as ever he thanked the crowd several times and played a few more, finally closing with “Let’s Dance” at the suggestion of a fan.