Martha Wainwright / July 23, 2008 / New York (Highline Ballroom)

Martha Wainwright's voice and an unexpected Wainwright family singalong drove this NYC performance.

With only her acoustic guitar, Wainwright began her set at New York's Highline Ballroom on Wednesday (July 23) with “I Wish I Were,” a simple waltz from her new album, “I Know You’re Married But I’ve Got Feelings Too.” A four-man band then joined her onstage for a jungle-flavored version of the album's opener, “Bleeding All Over You,” which featured guitarist Jim Campilongo hitting bright, clean chords on the off beats.

Wainwright’s band made the most major detours from album versions by adding piercing snare-drum smacks to “Comin’ Tonight” and improvised electric guitar solos to “Jesus and Mary.” But aside from the painfully loud sound system, only a poorly mixed take on "Jimi" wherein the instruments nearly drowned out Wainwright’s vocals, really marred the set.

The guys took a break while Wainwright belted the unhurried “Far Away” and “This Life” from her 2005 self-titled album. She then started her anti-war song, “Tower Song,” which she said was meant to be uplifting rather than depressing. She joked that what made it a war song was the “flowery poetry and imagery.”

Wainwright’s offbeat wit shined between songs when she coyly mentioned that her merch booth was selling underwear emblazoned with the album's title. She said they were an improvement from her last underwear design, which read “Bloody Mother F*cking Asshole,” the anthemic song from her self-titled release.

One of the night’s only two covers came right before Wainwright’s first of two encores. With her mother—folk singer Kate McGarrigle—on keys, Wainwright crooned French pop song “Dis Quand Reviendras Tu.” When she returned to the stage the first time, fans eagerly yelled “Bloody Mother F*cking Asshole!” to which Wainwright responded with a giggly “OK!”

She danced through “See Emily Play,” then welcomed McGarrigle back to the stage, along with her brother Rufus, to sing “Don’t Forget.” They alternated verses and sang the chorus of “Don’t forget that I will always love you / Just a reminder to help you pave your pathway” excellent three-part harmony. Martha can very well hold her own without her family’s help, but a surprise performance by half the Wainwright clan? No, we won’t forget.

Here is Martha Wainwright’s setlist:

“I Wish I Were”
“Bleeding All Over You”
“Comin’ Tonight”
“Jesus and Mary”
“Hearts Club Band”
“When The Day Is Short”
“So Many Friends”
“Far Away”
“This Life”
“Tower Song”
“You Cheated Me”
“Dis Quand Reviendras Tu”

Encore 1
“Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole”
“See Emily Play”
“Don’t Forget” (with Rufus Wainwright and Kate McGarrigle)

Encore 2
“Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin’ All The Time)”