September 14, 2016
Cecil Sharp House, London
“It’s a Scottish guitar – it’s not used to this kind of climate!”
It must be uncomfortable playing to a crowded hall in a heatwave but Sorren Maclean and Hannah Fisher didn’t show it. It wasn’t a case of taking it easy – far from it! Fisher’s fiddle solos increased in intricacy and intensity until the friction of the bow striking the strings was visible as vapour.
Fisher’s commitment to musical excellence remained throughout. When not engrossed in her own performance, she surreptitiously negotiated with the sound engineer to ensure the levels best showcased Maclean’s solo songs, such as Watch.
Fisher’s songs were featured too, most notably Until The Shadow. Both performers were strong individually, but their interaction as a duo really stood out. Their voices balanced each other on Neil Young’s Comes A Time, well-suited to their delicate folk approach. Between songs, their gentle banter added considerable warmth to the room.
Their finale duet, Loretta, closed the set and opened up delicious possibilities. Sung Nashville-style around a single microphone, it was all at once upbeat and nostalgic. It could easily lead a strong duets album and could well signpost a move towards Americana, a genre that always has room for sincere singers and fantastic fiddle players!
“The record was made very quickly ten years ago…we left all the rough edges in”
Anyone that saw last year’s performance at King’s Place would be familiar with Maclean and Fisher accompanying Roddy Woomble after their own set. This time, the pair were welcomed into a full band.
Thankfully, Woomble’s distinctive vocals and descriptive lyrics were enhanced, not overshadowed. They are what made the Idlewild frontman’s debut solo album special, and what the packed crowd had come to savour in silence.
The audience mirrored Woomble’s progression over 20 years in music; from tattooed 30-somethings reflecting Idlewild’s early punk-edged indie rock roots, to those more obviously at home at Cecil Sharp House, London’s home of folk music.
The crowd was as attentive as at the King’s Place showcase but the scale of the beautiful hall was much more intimate. It suited Woomble’s performance style well; instead of projecting nervous energy, he came across as assured and relaxed. He had the audience in stitches between songs, as when pointing out the slight flaw in wearing his £1 charity shop sweater on one of the hottest days of the year; “cashmere might have been a mistake…”
Of course, the songs were key and were more than a match for the unforgivingly crisp acoustics of the hushed hall. The highlight of the song-by-song rendition of the 2006 album My Secret Is My Silence was, as with the record itself, the tender title track.
Other songs came into their own as a decade of perspective, nuanced delivery and a band full of talented musicians came into the mix. Under My Breath was striking with its abrupt ending, while If I Could Name Any Name was enhanced by Fisher’s sweet solo.
Despite his obvious talent, Woomble was utterly humble, stepping aside whenever his bandmates took a solo to allow them their own time in the spotlight.
After the album run-through, the band returned to play a handful of tunes from Woomble’s third album, The Impossible Song and Other Songs. The band really kicked in for this encore; all shredding guitar solos and crashing cymbals. A delightfully overcharged way to end an overheated evening.
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