I'm as guilty as anyone of being a nostalgist, even as I continue to rifle through the current spate of artists sluicing down the pipeline, looking for the prime cuts among the offal. I buy more than my fair share of reissues and hit up theaters/clubs to gawk at the greying hair and creasing faces of those acts that I adored in my youth but was too broke/dumb/indifferent to have seen them during their heyday.
This performance, though, went beyond simply longing for the indie rock days of yore, or anyone involved really trying to capture some spark of youth. Surrounded by a welcoming gaggle of friends and fans, and her husband looking on with pride, Barbara Manning and her backing band (including her old World Of Pooh bandmate Brandan Kearney on guitar) basked in the moment, in the present tense that was still vivid and apparent even in the throwback set that they played.
There was an added sense of triumph to it when thinking about the last time Manning came to Portland. At a sparsely attended show at the soon-to-be vanquished dive bar Slabtown, she dared to take the stage alone and let nerves get the best of her. A few songs in, she left the stage to collect herself. But she returned, and graciously serenaded us with some lovely renditions of pieces from throughout her career and a few lovely cover tunes.
Perhaps bolstered by simply having a band or some volume at her back, or finally being settled into the comforts of adulthood thanks to her marriage and her move to Los Angeles, Manning exuded confidence and a spritely attitude. She tossed candies to the crowd to celebrate her birthday, ribbed the folks in her backing band, and kept things light and spirited. The set was a bit rickety and at times out of tune, but no one in the crowd cared. A space like Turn Turn Turn doesn't demand perfection, just heart. And Manning and everyone in that room had plenty to go around.