There was a pleasing memory of Throwing Muses' late 1980s and early 1990s heyday in the air here, although to look at Kristin Hersh is to realise that times have moved on. The singer, who formed the group in Rhode Island in 1981 with her half-sister Tania Donelly, looks great for her 45 years, although in the simple, understated elegance of her dressy grey top, tied-back dyed blonde hair and eye-catching necklace, there are few hints of the wayward icon who captured the heart of a generation's alternative scene.
These days it seems like Throwing Muses Hersh is just one of the personae the singer allows out of a box to play around with every so often. Donelly hasn't been a full-time member of the band since 1991; the group have only released one record (2003's second eponymous album) in a decade and a half; and Hersh has lately split her time between power-pop trio 50 Foot Wave and tours with her autobiography, Paradoxical Undressing. She was last seen in Scotland for some sets of solo music and spoken word during August's Edinburgh International Book Festival.
Yet Hersh throws this band on again like a well-worn overcoat. Accompanied by long-time bassist Bernard Georges and drummer Dave Narcizo, she plays a set which criss-crosses the Muses' 25-year recorded career, a milestone celebrated by the current Anthology compilation. The rhythm section add meat to the bones of a style which those familiar with Hersh's recent solo shows will recognise. Her guitar is crisp and raw, built upon the liberal use of an effects pedal and some enduringly poppy hooks on the most familiar of songs from their crossover days: "Bea", "Say Goodbye", "Bright Yellow Gun", the thudding, almost-funk groove of "Furious".
Most of all, this music is all about her voice – at once a sketch of soft vulnerability and a shrieking hellcat yelp, which mirrors the admittedly unhappy place Hersh was in when she wrote many of them, as evidenced by one exchange with a heckler as to whether or not she was smiling when she wrote "Hate My Way". The coda of "Vicky's Box", in particular, seemed almost like an exorcism, as if Hersh was yelling in tongues, possessed once more by the woman she was when she created these songs all those years ago. It was a show which perhaps spoke most to those who were there or who have an affinity for those times, but one which only enhanced Hersh's reputation as an artist whose work deservedly endures.Reuse content