Joanna Newsom is one of those polarizing artists: for every rapturous fan she seems to have an equally-passionate detractor. I understand this. Her exceptional musical talent is not in question – the girl’s got more chops than an Iowa butcher. Where people seem to be divided is in her voice. A fair cross would be Kate Bush + Carmen McRae + a unicorn. Work with me here, you know what I mean. Delicate, powerful, daringly operatic, swoopingly jazzy, with a dusting of fairy dandruff and impossible cuteness. Some are instantly attracted to the sheer skill of her singing, some repelled by what may seem to be an overly-mannered voice, and some become converts over time. I am one of the latter, which is why I got my tickets to see Newsom perform at the Seattle’s Moore Theater last Wednesday night. I also wanted to have claimed that yes, I have attended a concert with a harp and jaw harp as featured instruments.

Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes opened with a set plagued by technical problems and hometown nerves. When he did play, he shined. He reminded me of the classic folkies of the ‘60s, with a strong voice, good songs. But he seemed to spend as much time fretting over a broken acoustic guitar pick-up and tuning up before each song as performing. I wanted to just give the guy a pat on the shoulder and a warm glass of milk, he was so jittery. His forays up and down from a chair that seemed too small for him to comfortably sit on, winding through the music stands and cords and instruments already in place for Newsom’s set distracted from his music. Dude, it’s OK if the guitar is not in absolute perfect tune. Just play! That said, he was gracious and nerdily sweet with the patient crowd, and a very talented guy.

Joanna Newsom walked out alone onstage soon after Pecknold finished his set, lovely in a flowery summer dress, and sat down at her harp to play “81,” the crowd bursting with admiration. Newsom’s music is not a casual listen. She follows few rules in her songwriting for someone largely thought of as in the “indie rock” category. To appreciate what she does, you must drop your expectations at the door. Her songs are little epics – each lengthy, with many changes in tempo and instrumentation, and lyrics that read more like classical literature than “Yeah baby yeah.” It’s best just to dive in the ocean with her, and ride the waves wherever they go. Such an unusual and gifted person might be expected to be desperately haughty, but Newsom was at all times refreshingly normal and quite funny, thanking the audience many times with a beaming, genuine smile. Her multi-instrumentalist band joined her onstage after “81” and all were top-notch.

Special mention goes to percussionist Neal Morgan, the master of his domain, the drumset. Playing in a suit and barefoot, Morgan did more with a simple kit, some mallets, and a tambourine than most musicians could do with the combined kits of Neal Peart and John Bonham and locked in a room with Gene Krupa for 10 years. Impressive, and inspiring.

I got “THE TAP” from security for video, so what you get this time is an audio of “Good Intentions Paving Company” with my leetle stills. My apologies for the repetition of photos – damn, that’s a long song to fill. I figured that would be better than the original video of the Moore’s lovely ceiling, though. The painting of a Seattle skyline was given to Newsom by a fan in the audience near the close of the show, which ran about 90 minutes. The audience was in love, applause combusting after each song, mini-ovations for each.

Newsom’s latest recording is “Have One On Me,” and I say you should give it a listen or ten. She and her band gather classical, jazz, folk, blues, and rock influences like wildflowers in a field. She makes a strange and quite beautiful bouquet for you, expertly arranged in that one vase of your grandmother’s, the funny one with the pretty bubbles in the glass, the chip on the edge.