Patty Griffin has been in a state of almost constant evolution since she made her major label debut a decade ago, morphing from coffee-shop folkie to cocky rock chick before settling into her current groove in cerebral country — sort of an heiress to the Emmylou Harris throne.
But even as she’s donned and doffed musical styles, the crux of Griffin’s songs remains the same, with rich atmosphere and minute details blending to create a mood between nostalgia and wistful regret.
On the first night of a Gotham stint supporting her new ATO album “Impossible Dream,” Griffin ricocheted between those moods gamely, hitting all the right notes but producing emotion sickness in some of her more extreme segues.
Griffin jump-started the 19-song perf with a two-song blues-rock salvo, sliding the sneakily shuffling “Standing” into an animated take on “Love Throw a Line,” the latter of which showcased the slick-but-spirited lead guitar work of Doug Lancio. Momentum slowed, however, as the tempo did. “Rain” and “Blue Sky,” both of which depend more on ambiance than arrangement, failed to float down from the ether long enough to connect with the crowd.
The equally atmospheric “Mother of God,” on the other hand, was a high point. Over the course of the song’s seven minutes, Griffin methodically wove a complex emotional allegory matched by a melody that shifted widely but deliberately — a dynamic that made for gripping listening.
Lighter moments inserted mid-set — like a version of “Top of the World,” a chart hit for the Dixie Chicks — had a forced air. But as the 105-minute perf went on, Griffin found more comfortable footing, waxing snarky on “Perfect White Girls” and ending the evening by shimmying teasingly through the tango-styled “Mil Besos.”