A Grave with No Name at Servant Jazz QuartersCultureMusicLive music
Under the macabre moniker, A Grave with No Name, Alexander Shields performs a short yet exquisitely brooding set at Servant Jazz Quarters, bringing the introverted, transcendental musings of his latest album, Wooden Mask, to a tightly packed turnout. With minimal amplification from the stage and ambient noise trickling down from the bar upstairs, not a single breath is audible from the crowd as piqued ears lean in, listening intently.
Shields eases into Wedding Dress, a track that could paradoxically lay the atmospheric tone of a hazy funeral procession trudging along through the mud. Interestingly, Neil Young’s On the Beach and William Faulkner’s Sanctuary inspired the artist in writing the song, and perhaps an unsettling pathos can be discerned. The new album can be seen as a reflection of the countless things that one is unable to change and the fleshing out of the vulnerability and fragility at the very core of this condition. With the beautiful lyricism of House, Shields softly displays this overcompensating frailty with his crooning pangs of longing.
Like his music, Shields performs without embellishment or banter; he doesn’t acknowledge encouraging prompts from the audience, barely ever lifting his heavy-lidded eyes from the guitar. Regardless, the mood could hardly be described as sombre, and spectators appear to relish in the creeping melodies paired with the singer’s subdued falsetto.
The set closes with an acoustic version of I Will Ride a Horse from last year’s Feathers Wet, Under the Moon. Though presented without the uplifting accompaniments, the song still ends the show on a relative high. A Grave with No Name has managed to fly under the radar since the debut Mountain Debris in 2009, but based on Shields’s low-key musicality, perhaps he is exactly where he intends to be.
Photo: Bauke Karel
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Watch the video for I Will Ride a Horse here: