Review by Annar Veröld.
In cleverly haunting ways, Shearwater echoed among The Holy Bibles stashed between pew envelopes and hymn books at the Central Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas. An unusual, yet fascinating performance titled “The Island Arc”, featured Shearwater’s three latest albums, Palo Santo, Rook, and The Golden Archipelago. Shearwater’s acoustics resonated brilliantly in the polished halls and among the stained glass windows of the church. Fans wouldn’t mind branding this a holy event, especially after seeing the lead singer, Jonathan Meiburg, sing angelically in front of a giant wooden cross.
Meiburg began the evenings with the band’s plan on how they will be performing all three albums in their entirety, by explaining that all three albums will be performed one at a time with ten minute intermissions, because “Who would want to sit in wooden pews for three hours without a break?”
Shearwater began the lengthy evening with Palo Santo’s “La Dame et la licorne”, giving the audience a general idea of the incredible acoustics that were in store for the evenings. The first album continued, ranging from the sorrowful and eerie tracks, “Palo Santo” and “White Waves”— which sent chills with the haunting lines “The things that we did here will never die”– to the upbeat freedom anthem, “Seventy Four Seventy Five.”
After a ten minute intermission, Shearwater eased into Rooks “On the Death of the Waters”. Shearwater continued to perform the entire album, featuring songs such as “Home Life”, “I Was a Cloud”, and the audience favorite “Century Eyes”. Jonathan Meiburg’s bone chilling falsetto was captivating during “The Snow Leopard”, which also featured sweet brass that echoed crisply among the pews of the church.
The final album, The Golden Archipelago, sealed The Island Arc concert with the most goose-bump inducing performances. The luring percussion from “Castaways”, and the grandiose vocals and from “Black Eyes” gave awing performances from Shearwater.
The most emotional tracks showcased were “Meridian” and “Missing Islands”, which were performed first and last for the final album of the evening. Both songs featured recordings of the devastated, yet painfully hopeful people of Bikini Atoll singing their national anthem. During “Missing Islands”, Austin City Police and ambulance sirens rang vibrantly in tune to the heart-felt piece, as the sorrowful chords became climactic—an interesting and timely coincidence even Shearwater’s cellist could not help but to smirk.
Despite a few minor technical difficulties, such as stage-power outages and speaker malfunctions, Shearwater performed their albums flawlessly; Shearwater’s intelligent and poetic lyrics and beautiful compositions resonated brilliantly in the walk-ways of the Central Presbyterian Church.