Joseph: Dreaming with my eyes open

Joseph | Union Chapel | 7 February 2017

Three voices, an acoustic guitar, and foot stomps (oh, and the occasional handclap or tambourine shake) are all you need to create glorious music. If you’re Joseph, that is.

With what seems like no effort at all, the Closner sisters create complex vocal harmonies, either singing in unison to create one powerful, complementary voice, or emphasising their differences to add rich colours, textures, and counterpoints. The results are transformatory, lifting the trio’s finely crafted tunes far above their singer-songwritery roots.

Removing the instrumentation of their recorded work – piano, electric guitar, slide, shuffling drums – only enhances the effect. So ‘Blood and Tears’, a lush love song from their new album ‘I’m Alone, No You’re Not’, becomes a far more tender – and moving – ballad with Nathalie accompanying herself on guitar while Allie and Meegan’s elaborate backing vocals replace the slick pop production.

While the irrepressible ‘SOS (Overboard)’ may lack the big Imagine Dragons sound of the studio recording, the siblings capture its jubilant spirit with little more than handclaps, Meegan’s lead vocals, and some Beach Boys-style harmonising.

Even the rousing protest song ‘White Flag’, without the pounding drumming of the record, sounds more immediate and emotional as its stripped-back arrangement – strummed acoustic guitar, stomping, clapping – gives the sisters the space to showcase the edgier side of their voices.

And yet even that intensity is no match for the tour de force of ‘Sweet Dreams’. Sans the LP’s lavish string arrangement, it’s down to the three Closners to reproduce a cinematic ballad that, from ethereal beginnings, builds to a crescendo of Hollywood proportions. Of course, the sisters excel – “MASSIVE HARMONIES!!” is the scrawled comment in my notebook – and fill the Union Chapel with a sound that’s suitably hymnal and angelic.


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