“I’ve been looking forward to this show for so long, for years now,” said Katie Crutchfield, better known as Waxahatchee, four songs into her set last Sunday night, before launching into “The Eye” off of the indie rock singer/songwriter’s 2020 album Saint Cloud. The performance was the first of two sold-out nights at Union Transfer – the first of which was originally scheduled for April 14th of 2020 and was later postponed to October 15th of 2021, before being postponed again due to a positive COVID test in her camp – to feature the 2020 album, her latest, in its entirety, in addition to favorites from her back catalogue and a handful of covers, including “Fruits of My Labor,” by Lucinda Williams, who Crutchfield proclaimed her favorite songwriter, and Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning,” which closed each night.
The two-night stand, two years in the making, in Waxahatchee’s once-home, lived up to all of the expectations and enthusiasm that accrued over the course of the pandemic (with the only possible exception being that each night contained exactly the same 24-song set). Saint Cloud, an album documenting her struggles with and recovery from alcoholism, had the artist returning to her folksy Americana sounds, after 2017’s Out in the Storm had her taking a more guitar-heavy approach to indie rock, featuring Sleater-Kinney touring guitarist Katie Harkin and co-producer John Agnello, best known for his work with Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. With the sounds of Saint Cloud making up nearly half of the set (Most notably “Hell,” arguably Waxahatchee’s greatest tune yet, a stripped-down, country-tinged anthem reminiscent of Tom Petty’s dalliances with ‘90s alternative rock.), Waxahatchee resembled a 21st Century take on the Americana heroinism of Williams and Parton. However, the four tracks from Out in the Storm present (“Recite Remorse,” “Silver,” “Sparks Fly,” and “Never Been Wrong.”) brought some punchier and fuzzier moments to the first half of each set.
Despite the love and affection felt (from the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection) for Waxahatchee’s latest sounds, it was perhaps two covers the provided the highest points of the evenings. 13 songs in, the band (which featured Philadelphia’s own Eric Slick of Dr. Dog on drums) premiered their cover of The Boss’ “Streets of Philadelphia,” to a far-from-exactly-dry-eyed Union Transfer audience. And while the first night the song was dedicated to the city itself, the second night Crutchfield dedicated it specifically to the playoff-bound 76ers for perhaps the biggest ovation of either performance. And our personal favorite moments of the sets came with the opening song of the encore, a cover of Madi Diaz’s “Resentment,” featuring the recently profiled Diaz, who opened both shows with equally enchanting sets, and collaborated with Waxahatchee (in addition to Angel Olsen, Courtney Marie Andrews, and Natalie Hemby) on last month’s Same History, New Feelings EP, featuring new renditions of four of the songs from her 2021 History of a Feeling LP.