A introspective show that takes fans on a reflective, decade long journey.
Words, Photos by Jacob Sanders (@themetalscholar):
It's a minimalist setup; the kind of coffee house-resembling, independent music atmosphere that lends a certain flair to a man who effortlessly slides onto stage from a dark curtain near the rear, waving to the crowd as he spots fans and friends with fond recognition, all while taking his seat at center stage.
Modest and made of metal, the chair and its innocuous bedfellow, a wood stool, stand alone at the mast, merely a pedestal for the artist, and a lectern for a simple black notebook, a bottle of water, and a drink of choice. He sips quietly, his presence the only assertive trait of the entire show. With rampant applause far louder than any aspect of the show will display, Noah Gundersen returns to North Texas — this show, his first of two — to perform a catalogue-spanning double set that will please and excite every era of his fandom.
Longtime listeners will already know the package deal. A man of raw, emotional talent will strap on a guitar, climb into the saddle of the keyboard, ravaging the audience with a psychologically-tormenting soundtrack of real-world, crowd-conscious issues that carry all the repose of the grave and all the weight of a lifetime of burdens. Though normally a family affair that features Noah's sister, Abby, and brother, Johnny, this evening of recollection is an intimate solo-flight in celebration of the release of Pillar of Salt, as well as a chance to inhale after more than a decade of music and memories.
Kicking off with Poor Man's Son, an A Capella introduction greets listeners with a hymnal of harmonic glory that breathes Americana and sways gently in a chapel made from fan-love, and the well-inked hands of a Washingtonian songwriter who has lived the life of a blessed and damned musician with a simple dream.
The defining performance for an artist comes not when they're first starting, vicious, and full of angst. It comes from the weary, and battered creature who has seen countless tours; all of the wishes turned to reality, all of the lost moments spent trying to capture a single sound, all the engagements spent burning through American Spirit cigarettes, and glasses of courage, just to fumble through one's own social anxiety long enough to humor a fan and tolerate a critic. The defining performance is when an artist is forced to reconcile their new sounds with the old, and take stock of the subtle, and necessary changes that would further their career, and lay the foundation of who they would become.
Noah is no stranger to surviving one's own sins. Crawling through classics such as Ledges, First Defeat, Cigarettes, Middle of June, Jesus, Jesus, and Dying Now, he takes a magnifying glass to lost loves, learning from failure, clinical depression, hollow aspirations, the decay of one's soul, and the sad recognition of one's own toxic past. In an hour and a half, Fort Worth could see the wounds pried open on years of trauma and dramatic change, a testament to the fortitude of a poor kid from Olympia who made it as a folk singer in a town that lays in the Southwestern shadow of Kurt Cobain's tragic legacy.
A show comprised of two measures music, another of self-deprecating humor, Noah took several moments to pause, glancing backwards at obscenely-written lyrical first drafts, meth, and vasectomies, all of which drew more tears from laughter. Chasing the idea of natural evolution, hiding from the reaper of stagnation, raging against the dying of the light. He hides the faintest shy toothy grin, as he tells the tale of a man in his most inelegant form of agony. The humor is a cleansing touch to an otherwise somber evening, and is a consistent feature of a Noah Gundersen show. To call it a performance assumes the man is anything but genuine. This is his heart and soul on trial, forcing the audience to feel things for him, to want to give something back to him.
If audiences can love anything from Noah, it's that his most intimate event is gently-titled as a conversation, but they're all just listening to discover what he says and sings next.
A Pillar of Salt is available now. Order your copy, find tour dates, and more HERE.