Anaïs Mitchell @ La Belle Angèle, 20 Nov

Live Review by Harry Harris | 24 Nov 2016

For the past few years, it’s seemed like Anaïs Mitchell has been ascending, and tonight, closing out her tour in Edinburgh, it genuinely feels like she's a star. Over 10 years since her debut record, Hymns for The Exiled, and six since the all encompassing art-piece Hadestown that has followed her ever since, her live show has become like watching an American national treasure, as she dips into a rich and varied back catalogue that showcases her as one of the finest working songwriters today.

Bookended by two songs in tribute to the late Leonard Cohen – she opens with Famous Blue Raincoat, and takes on Suzanne for the encore – Mitchell gives a good cross section of her career throughout the set. She returns to her critically acclaimed Child Ballads record, while also playing some newer tracks, including a contribution to Martin Green of Lau’s Flit project, which tells stories of social migration through song. Even though this tour isn’t promoting a new record, there is a real thrill to hearing Mitchell play new material.

That said, there is still a sense that Mitchell is something of a fan’s secret. People are crowding around for a decent view at La Belle Angèle tonight, but there's a frenzied reaction to the performance of Wilderland and Young Man in America, beautifully accompanied by SAY Award-nominated Jarlath Henderson (whose opening set was beautiful) with multiple requests shouted out throughout the show.

The standing ovation after she closes out her set with the brilliant Out Of Pawn, and the rapturous response to the strangely prescient Why We Build the Wall – “any comparisons to any President-Elects are purely... archetypal,” Mitchell notes – suggest that her audience sizes will only continue to grow. [Harry Harris]