Eleanor Friedberger, Icewater, Zebra Hunt
March 5, 2016
By Graham Isaac
Establishing a solo voice can be a challenge for an artist. Eleanor Friedberger, long best known for her work with idiosyncratic indie pop act The Fiery Furnaces, has been developing hers over the course of three solo releases, culminating in this year’s exceptionally solid New View. If her fans were expecting Fiery Furnaces songs, it didn’t show during her set at Barboza on March 5, when she delivered a confident show drawing from all three solo releases, accompanied by the crowd on singalong multiple times.
Friedberger has stated in interviews that she wants to move from being an “indie artist to being a more classic rock artist,” and this approach showed; her backing band, Icewater, (also touring with her as opening act) can play light or ragged, evoking a reverbed-soaked Stones vibe at their best. Friedberger started the set with an acoustic guitar, then set it aside after a few songs and assumed frontperson duties. Decked out in a smart jean jacket and jeans, she looked classically New York, and she exuded a cool confidence without ever seeming aloof. It’s this balance that sets Friedberger apart; she can be the sardonic observationalist (such as on set highlight “Roosevelt Island”) vulnerable singer/songwriter, or both, such as in current single and early crowd-pleaser “Sweetest Girl.”
Throughout the night, the crowd, made up largely of young professionals in weekend flannels, enthusiastic and studied in the work, but still several steps away from raucous. Local openers Zebra Hunt played a solid set of melodic indie rock that set the stage nicely. Icewater followed with a set that combined Spoon’s rhythmic tightness with light psychedelic flourishes.
Friedberger read the crowd well, stopping for banter now and again, stopping to banter, thank the venue. The encore was acknowledged as a perfunctory measure, but a welcome one. She closed with “Stare at the Sun,” eliciting squeals of enthusiasm from the glasses-bedecked women in front of me.