Why am I writing about a four-song set from over a year ago? First, it’s an incredible run-through of 4 songs covering most of their recorded output. Second, with Matthew doing his own incredibly ambitious own thing, and Eleanor flying solo, this may well be one of the last Fiery Furnaces performance ever! I really hope not, I always looked forward to a new Fiery Furnaces album as much as a day off.
What makes this session so special? Here, the colorful sound of the originals is replaced with simple, piano based versions.
Matthew Friedberger is no slouch on the keys (or any other instrument he plays). So even while playing Van-Cliburn-esque fills on a normal upright piano, the songs still retain their original energy and effectiveness. That’s really the only embellishment these versions have, and that’s what makes these versions so effective. If you’ve ever experienced the claustrophobic cacophony that is Blueberry Boat, you will be scraping your jaw off the floor after hearing this version. The overcooked insanity of the original is replaced with a very clever song that you always half-heard buried under the original.
The whole set has the air of an 18th century parlour room. It’s intimate and charming.*
My point here is: if this truly is one of the last Fiery Furnaces performances, what an incredible, concise and perfect end. Long may they burn.
* For the opposite end of this spectrum, check out Remember, their double live disc, in which they utterly and recklessly destroy their own songs with a 4-person-total-rock show configuration. Everything flies off the rails and runs together. I have rarely heard an entire musical catalog so utterly transformed.