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O'Donovan does The Boss

The Troubadour, West Hollywood, Cal., November 28, 2023

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Aoife O'Donovan performed Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska," in the exact order these 10 songs appeared on the album, to a quiet, attentive audience. In fact, after this crowd gave O'Donovan hearty applause once she hit the stage, she pointed out how it was probably a good thing to get that rowdiness out of their system, considering what they were about to hear.

"Nebraska' is easily one of Springsteen's softest, saddest albums to date. The folks that gathered together this night paid close attention to every Springsteen lyric O'Donovan sang and were rewarded with a wonderful feminine take on The Boss's treasured album.

O'Donovan many times softened the somber mood with some funny between songs comments. For example, she dedicated "Mansion on the Hill" to nearby Beverly Hills, which is just across Doheny Drive from the club. O'Donovan accompanied herself throughout with just an acoustic guitar but was ably assisted – both instrumentally and vocally - by Nickel Creek fiddler Sara Watkins. This pair is also two-thirds of I'm With Her, a trio that also includes fellow singer/songwriter Sarah Jarosz.

Springsteen got inside the heads of some mighty desperate characters with this album. Whether this was a guy doing a favor for some unsavory characters in "Atlantic City," or the man that prays a cop won't stop him on the road during "State Trooper," these are people oftentimes behaving like frightened animals. O'Donovan sang each of these songs in her own voice, instead of attempting to do a female impression of Springsteen. While mostly quiet, she revealed true vocal power toward the end of "State Trooper."

O'Donovan encored with a few of her own songs, including "Prodigal Daughter," joined again by Watkins. Tonight's setlist was primarily dedicated to Springsteen, but O'Donovan reminded one and all that she's a talented songwriter, as well.

Midway through her set, O'Donovan asked how many people were at the show to hear her, versus how many were just big Springsteen fans. About a quarter of these attendees were there mainly for the Springsteen songs. But whether one was there for The Boss, or to hear O'Donovan, this was a stellar night of truly fantastic songs.

DT IG, an instrumental neo-classical/folk act, opened the show. The group included two acoustic guitarists, a trumpeter, fiddler and cellist. It was a sweet, unusual surprise to hear this sort of music in a rock club.

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