Adrianne Lenker Stuns Intimate Brooklyn Audience With Songs From New Album ‘Bright Future’

The Music Hall of Williamsburg was buzzing at 9 p.m. Monday night as 600-some people filed into the venue to watch Adrianne Lenker debut songs from her new solo album “Bright Future,” out Friday. When the Big Thief frontwoman sauntered onstage, acoustic guitar and notebook in hand, she faced a rapturous audience the size of which she has already outgrown. (In November, the indie folk darling will play two nights at Brooklyn’s 3,000-cap Kings Theatre.)

But then, the second she plucked the first notes of “Cell Phone Says,” an unreleased new album cut, there was silence. That awestruck, respectful sort of quiet persisted throughout the 90-minute show, until “Anything” prompted some light audience harmonizing and “Vampire Empire” got people singing, “Falling, yeah!”

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After a rousing solo set from Palehound’s El Kempner, Lenker cycled through a handful of songs alone — favorites from her 2020 album “Songs,” plus Big Thief’s apocalyptic stunner “The Only Place.” Lenker then brought out Nick Hakim and Mat Davidson, who sing and play piano, violin and guitar on “Bright Future,” and finished the concert as a trio.

Intriguingly, it was sometimes difficult to discern between the three musicians, whose delicate playing gelled together in an ambient swell. On “Real House,” the stirring, purposefully shapeless new album opener, Lenker formed a mosaic of childhood memories: “Do you remember / Coming to the hospital when I was 14? / My friends all left me there spinning / Dad was angry and you saw everything.” On “Fool,” another new album track, she showcased her finger-picking with a woozy, dextrous guitar riff. Each song was met with enthusiastic, attentive applause. At times, even Lenker seemed stunned, saying with a shy giggle in between songs, “I keep, like, wanting to… I don’t know.”

Lenker closed the set with “Sadness as a Gift,” a song that had long gestated at Big Thief’s live shows before landing on “Bright Future.” It’s a sweeping, easy ode to the ephemeral, with Lenker lamenting, “The seasons go so fast / Thinking that this one was gonna last / Maybe the question was too much to ask.”

After Lenker exited the stage, gathering a few letters and gifts from fans in the front row, the venue rattled with “woo”s and claps for several minutes. Could she come back out? I wondered. No way. Lenker infamously hates feeling coaxed to come back onstage. (She once posted a video apologizing to bummed-out fans but defending Big Thief’s decision to skip encores in order to maintain “honesty” in the band’s shows.)

But, alas, Lenker returned, and sat down at the piano to play “Evol,” another yet-to-be-released solo song. She performed one verse and then froze, basking in the venue’s silence for close to 20 seconds. After considering her options, she said with a smile, “OK, that’s it,” and stood up and walked offstage.

Maybe the question of a full encore was too much to ask. But given the rarity of the occasion, I’m just grateful we got something.

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