Eleanor Friedberger wasn’t afraid to challenge her audience on Friday night. Opening her set with a 15-minute short film that drew heavily from experimental cinema, she quickly set the tone for an evening filled with surprises and left turns. The film is titled after the song that it ostensibly represents, “She’s A Mirror,” from this year’s excellent Personal Record. The packed room didn’t particularly know how to react to the jump cuts and fragmented versions of the songs, but it worked because it laid the foundation for what would be a thorough look at her solo catalog through a very different lens.
Basically every song in the hour-plus set stemmed from her two post-Fiery Furnaces solo albums, 2011’s Last Summer and the aforementioned Personal Record, yet they were, for the most part, all warped, reconfigured, or sped up to feel like new ideas on old theories. “I Won’t Fall Apart On You Tonight” was the early standout, gaining more of an edge than on record, where it feels like the Ramones toning down to do a love song while still kicking some ass. Perennial live creep-out song “Inn Of The Seventh Ray” worked off of the dark corners of the room, a song about Los Angeles that feels less sunny than that city’s weather would have you think.
The newer songs felt even more enthralling, as it appeared that the band around Friedberger was working out how exactly they wanted to go about playing them. “When I Knew” is the highlight of Personal Record, and live it picked up some distortion and jagged edges to its bubbly musical identity. Friedberger prefaced the song by saying that she usually dedicates it to a woman, but for tonight it was dedicated to all the wonderful men in her life. A little bit later, “She’s A Mirror” returned in full form, but something was off. Not in a negative way, but the first half was slowed down and became a love-struck ballad in a way that wasn’t there before. That changed as soon as the saxophone kicked in, however, turning it back into its original Hall And Oates-inspired jam.
There were a few more surprises left in the night, as Friedberger sent her band away for a solo performance of “I Am The Past” before bringing them back for two final songs. A pleasantly well-done cover of Cass McCombs’ “County Line” brought out smiles from the audience, while Last Summer opener “My Mistakes” inspired some funky dance moves on the floor. That led to the best surprise of the night, which had Eleanor drop her mic and run into the crowd, opening up a dance circle while her band jammed on stage. Aside from her mild irritation with all of the camera phones (she would appreciate it if you watched the show with your eyes, not through your iPhone), she and the crowd were all smiles, handclaps, and jumping up and down. And thus, a slightly off-center set ended so far off-center as to not take place on the stage at all. Not bad for a Friday night.