On a particularly chilly Thursday evening (3/15) last week, there may as well have been a cozy, blazing hearth inside New York City’s Town Hall thanks to the vibe created by the performance of supergroup I’m With Her. Made up on Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan, the trio is on tour supporting their official full-length debut record See You Around, and though there was hardly an empty chair in the crowd, the show felt intimate. The sound that comes forth when these three women harmonize transports the listener to a simpler state of being. It’s unfussy and so definitively stunning. Each has a voice so gorgeous and crystalline, they make something quite difficult look so easy. Playing songs off the new record, with a few fun covers thrown in, they effortlessly captivated the theatre.
Andrew Combs warmed things up with a beautiful solo set, and though he looked so small standing alone on that big stage, his voice cut through the auditorium with such power and control. Combs released his third studio album Canyons of My Mind just last year, and it is filled with moody, atmospheric songs that are well-suited to a sparse, acoustic arrangement. Combs paid tribute through song to his brand new daughter and wife, and likely melted every heart in attendance. His set included standouts like “All These Dreams”, “Strange Bird”, “Lauralee” and “Hazel”, all so magnificent it was hard to see him go.
With Jarosz situated in the center and Watkins and O’Donovan on either side, the trio took the stage and began their nearly uninterrupted set, seamlessly moving between songs with such poise and thoughtfulness. The control they have over their volume and tone, and the ways their voices play off and complement each other is astounding. From the more bubbly tunes off See You Around like “Ain’t That Fine” (led by Watkins) to the haunting ballad “Wild One” (an album and performance standout), these three women seem like they’ve been playing music together forever. Each note was somehow more angelic than the one that came before, and often by a song’s end, you’d find yourself letting out a small sigh, not realizing you’d been holding your breath all the way through.
It was a thrill to see them embrace a handful of carefully chosen cover songs, from Jim Croce’s “Walkin’ Back to Georgia” to the more under the radar “Today is a Bright New Day” from the sweet-voiced troubadour Tom Brosseau. But perhaps most memorable were surprise covers of Adele’s “Send My Love (to Your New Lover)” and Vampire Weekend’s “Hannah Hunt”. I’m With Her did what every artist should strive to do when handling a cover – own it (and in some cases, improve upon it). It felt like their voices filled every square inch of the vast auditorium, and we could have stayed there all night, letting them softly even sing us to sleep.