LIVE: Jessica Pratt - Night & Day Cafe, Manchester


Jessica Pratt made her way through the waiting audience just before half past eight. The setting was inviting and relaxed, in a familial way. Night & Day does not boast the easiest stage to floor angles, but both support act Jo Rose and Pratt commanded the venue.

Rose brought us forward and the lights down, with music of a self-professed country (ranging to pure-traditional country). Warm and soothing, there are drawls and plosives aplenty for us to sink into.

His strong yet lightly gravelly voice is met with deep, bluesy guitar. The songs performed (including one new to the live set) very much perpetuated those familiar streams of consciousness in country music that soul-search and describe.

Rose filled this structure with an inevitable sense of self that gives his music an interesting and fresh sound. He also had a good command of the silences. Definitely one to watch.

Pratt presented a sultry front with a unique vocal aptitude. In earlier eras, you wouldn’t choose your ‘masters’, your artistic lineage, it would be blood inheritance. Today you absolutely can.

Pratt’s music registers with that of, amongst others, Joni Mitchell and Joanna Newsom, even a good bit of the grit of Janis Joplin from her familiar West Coast. However, she brings something new and special to this rich musical community.

Pratt began her set with ‘Wrong Hand’ – from latest album On Your Own Love Again –sweetly. Noticeably, if you attend to both albums, the latter introduces a more experimental side in Pratt. Though, beautifully, there are still the whimsical, vowel-manipulating (think a little Nico) vocals that have the ability to carry you far away.

Sobering dissonances nudge the listener back to reality every so often, amid the other heated and warped sounds. Pratt’s latest album evokes mysterious, worldly tones in her vibrant folk.

In contrast with the first, her second song was ‘Night Faces’ taken from her first self-titled album, which was released by Birth Records – the label owned by Tim Presley of White Fence. A track of trembling life observations, the mystical chiming while she sings “cry no tears” from her electric guitarist was nothing short of magical.

There is little difference between the live and studio translation of her music, which makes her both as wonderful live as you could imagine and true on CD and vinyl. But consequently, few moments of clarity in the live performance really resonated.

An excellent, if not slightly reserved, performance. Plenty of depth, but a little more contact with us would have been welcome. Or perhaps that isn’t how Jessica works – she seemed as enigmatic as her creations. Both of her albums are gorgeously complete.

Nonetheless, a precious gig. On journeys of folk, both artists cross borders in genre and character, making for stimulating but mostly zen listening. Far Out highly recommends them to you.

Imogen Phoebe Webb