Anais Mitchell, the genius behind multi-Tony award-winning Hadestown, performs a one-night only concert at The Queen's Hall. Daniel Perks spends an evening in this glorious soundscape:

Soft purple hues illuminate Anais Mitchell as she takes to the stage. Three guitars, two performers and one spellbinding show.

Anais Mitchell Queen's Hall

Folk singer-songwriter Mitchell is best known among musical theatre circles as the driving force behind Hadestown, which scooped eight Tony Awards this year after 13 years in development. Here, Mitchell treats the audience to a couple of those hallowed tracks – bluesy chromatics are both harrowing and comforting as she sings Hades’ seminal song,

“Why do we build the wall?”

“We build the wall to keep us free”

Written in 2006. Enough said.

Patrick Page in Hadestown (image courtesy of Helen Maybanks)

For the rest of the set, Mitchell returns to her folk roots. The diffuse but precise lighting effortlessly mingles with Mitchell’s soft strumming acoustics and breathy tones. Her tracks melt away all cares, an ethereal soundscape that wafts through a storytelling narrative to gently whisk the audience away from the perils of reality. Mitchell is a sound painter, her voice adding the texture of brushstrokes to the canvas of her guitar. The final picture, painted in sound, is wholesome and full.

As a songwriter, Mitchell captures deep pools of personal emotion and passion in her lyrics. She references paternal inspirations – her father Don is an author himself. Songs based on his work are open ended, stories not yet concluded that the Mitchells are still living. As a composer, she doesn’t shy away from alternative notes to colour her chords – every song is tinged with complex wistfulness, a series of layered emotions woven into its very fabric.

Anais Mitchell Queen's Hall

A tender moment, the title track to her album Morning Glory, is the curtain call. Harmonies softly and assuredly rise to a heavenly chorus, a secular exaltation of hope and light on this darkest of nights.

“When she leaves, she’ll leave no trace”

And then Mitchell is gone, travelling light on the next passing zephyr, temporal and yet temporary. But her music, her sound, lodges in the memory. It’s a gossamer earworm that brightens up the day with every recollection.

★★★★☆

Anais Mitchell played at The Queen’s Hall. For more information, please visit the festival website.