We’ve always celebrated songs and songwriting here at Austin City Limits. So we’re always happy to host a songsmith as special as Tamara Lindeman, AKA The Weather Station. The Toronto musician has long impressed critics and audiences not only with her thoughtful, soulful songcraft, but also with her willingness to push her artistry beyond anyone’s expectations, including her own. Her latest album How Is It I Should Look At the Stars denotes a musical shift from last year’s much-acclaimed Ignorance, which itself changed course from 2017’s self-titled breakthrough. She and her five-piece band brought that breadth and depth to the Moody Theater stage for her debut ACL performance.
With a percolating drum groove, a kneeling Lindeman and the band began the set with “Wear,” a silky midtempo soul-pop tune from Ignorance. The tempo and urgency increased with “Loss,” an emotionally charged rock song that perfectly showcased the band’s distinctive sound: guitar, keys, bass and drums, enhanced by contributions from Karen Ng on clarinet and alto sax. “It’s such an honor,” Lindeman noted. “I’m overwhelmed.” Then “Separated,” a song about the futility of internet arguments, added some carefully doled drama to the performance, with a false ending and some well-placed clave clicks. Lindeman then picked up her guitar to revisit the self-titled record for the gorgeous and rocking “You and I (On the Other Side of the World),” before the band reached even further back for the soulful folk rock of “Way It Is, Way It Could,” from 2015’s Loyalty. She dipped into the latest record for “Stars,” a sparse, heartfelt ballad that sounded as if it could just as easily have come from the Great American Songbook as from the world of Canadian indie rock.
The final notes had barely finished fading out when guitarist Will Kidman started chunking away to lead into “Look,” a song “about trying to talk to politicians” from Ignorance, followed by the same LP’s driving pop rocker “Tried to Tell You.” Next tune “Better Now” began as an ethereal ballad, but drummer Kieran Adams brought the rest of the band crashing in on the chorus for another slice of well-crafted rock. Adams’ rumbling drums, Johnny Spence’s stately piano and Ben Whiteley’s nimble bass jumpstarted the soaring “Heart,” joined by Ng’s clarinet and Kidman and Lindeman’s guitars. The band essayed an atmospheric, improvised intro that led into “Robber,” the attention-grabbing first single from Ignorance, the unique, jazzy dynamics (especially with Ng’s stratospheric free jazz sax) of which made it a standout even in a setlist of standouts. “Atlantic” went for a smoother melody and groove, allowing Lindeman to really concentrate on her singing, before upping the pop quotient even further for the euphonic “Parking Lot.”
After Lindeman introduced the players, The Weather Station ended the set with the elegant ballad “Subdivisions” – a lovely original, and not a cover of the eponymous anthem by Lindeman’s fellow Toronto residents Rush, that showed off what a fine singer she is. Though the band left the stage, they returned to play the masterful “Thirty,” a brisk folk rocker Lindeman described as joyful, as attested by the dust kicked up and Kidman’s spiraling guitar solo. A killer bonus, capping off an excellent evening that we can’t wait for you to see when it airs this fall on your local PBS station.