MARTHA Wainwright is a tough one to pinpoint.
She’s naturally funny, animated one moment and then awkward the next, fidgeting with her hair and stumbling over her words as she bares her soul both in song and banter between the music. She often directed her talk to bass player and husband Brad Albetta who was content hiding at the rear of the stage in a hat and sunglasses.
All legs, dressed in a spotted dress and textured tights, sporting a wild, blonde bouffant hairstyle, Wainwright cut a striking figure on stage when she took to the mic solo with a guitar strapped across her front and opened with This Life from her 2005 self-titled debut album.
When she toured Australia two years ago she was supporting the release of her album of Edith Piaf recordings, Sans Fusils, Ni Souliers, à Paris: Martha Wainwright’s Piaf Record.
This time around she had a new original album, Come Home To Mama, which combines her folk roots with poppier sounds.
Wainwright’s diversity as an artist is arguably the product of her strong musical lineage.
She is the daughter of American folk singer/humorist and actor Loudon Wainwright III and Canadian folk singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle, and the sister of singer Rufus Wainwright who, collectively, have all influenced her own style to varying extents.
At the core of the music is Wainwright’s wonderful voice, which filled the intimate room.
And she can do anything with it.
She sang two songs beautifully in French from her Piaf album, which she dramatised to full effect, lifting her hand to her face and stamping her feet to emphasise the narrative.
A captivating version of Nick Cave’s The Ship Song offered another side to her voice.
Then came a delicate, haunting cover of Proserpina (the last song her late mother wrote) before she transformed into Judy Garland for a breathtaking rendition ofStormy Weather, referencing her brother who has previously recorded the song.
She may have followed in the footsteps of her family, but Wainwright has come into her own.