Gig review: Mary Gauthier at the Foundling Museum, Bloomsbury, London
Standing amidst gigantic portraits of bewigged 18th-century charitable benefactors (“Where are all the women?” she wonders), Mary Gauthier cuts a figure of self-confidence and success that belies the story that she’s telling – the true story of how she was abandoned at birth, raised by adoptive parents, how she eventually found her birth mother, and the many struggles she has gone through, and still goes through, to understand her history and her life story.
It’s the story of her latest album, The Foundling, and Gauthier opened her UK tour with a performance of that album almost in its entirety as a benefit for London’s Foundling Museum, built on the site of the city’s first home for abandoned children.
Though Gauthier hasn’t been shy, at least in recent years, to speak in public about her experiences, as with the album itself, on this occasion she avoided speaking more than a word or two about the stories behind the songs, leaving the words and music to tell the tale. She only stopped to speak at any length about her battle to get the law changed in the United States to allow adopted children access to information about their birth parents. “Every human being should have the right to know where they came from,” she concluded.
Gauthier sang through the album in order, only stopping one song short of the end, presumably to end on an upbeat note, declaring that I still believe in love. The show ended with two songs that were the titles of of other albums – the beautiful “Mercy Now” and the earlier “Drag Queens in Limousines”, as well as a chance for fiddle player Tania Elizabeth to showcase her abilities with a Canadian reel.
If there is anything to criticise in the show, it’s that Gauthier sometimes seems to be focused on Tania Elizabeth rather than the audience, and also the length of the show – only just over an hour. Nevertheless, she is a remarkable artist, who has given much of herself to her audience in producing this very personal album and performing it around the world. “The story is sad and tragic and challenging, but in the end I’ve learned how to make money on that story, and everything is just fine,” she told the audience to laughs. And if she’s making money, who can blame her?