A revisit to this haven of musical adventure and the chance discovery of hidden gems. The Verinos were part of an initiative to encourage older women to form bands and their self-penned tunes went down well with the early afternoon crowd.
Breakup Haircut were the highlight for us, full of frenetic punk sparkle and with songs like ‘Out Of My Way (I’m Not Getting On The Nightbus)’ and ‘Why Can’t I Be Cool Enough to Move to Berlin?’ there was an addictive energy to the performance. Lilith Ai held the audience rapt with just guitar and voice, interweaving introspective lyrics with sparse yet intricate musical lines.
The blast of ‘Blurred Visions’ opened the set from Chemtrails and there was no let up from the guitar, keys and dual vocals from this sonically powerful band, very well supported by the packed audience. The reassuring indie constructions from adults were very welcome; full of lyrical intrigue and unpredictable instrumental turnarounds. Headlining band ME REX ended up as a solo performance but by this time the low key, thoughtful songs were a fitting closedown to the evening…
Opening this fine evening of folk and Americana music in this converted church venue was Lauren Housley, showcasing her soulful voice and song writing as featured on her album ‘Girl From The North’. With just acoustic guitar backing her performance had instant appeal for the near sell-out audience.
For this tour The Wandering Hearts have stripped back to the core trio and with two excellent albums already and many new songs due for release soon their set was rich in highlights. Blending their three harmonies for an introductory cover of ‘White Christmas’ and then into the subtle delights of early single ‘Burning Bridges’, the acoustics of this ancient building showed off the gorgeous sounds.
The three performers create a very full sound, with only guitar backing for many of the tracks, sometimes augmented by mandolin and piano. To contrast the gentleness of ‘Dolores’ and ‘Lullaby’ there were plenty of anthemic choruses like ‘Build a Fire’ and main set closer ‘Devil’. With a seasonal finale of Auld Lang Syne blended with the outstanding ‘Wish I Could’ it was a superb show, echoing long in the memory.
Chloe Foy opened the show with the ethereal title track from her 2021 debut album ‘Where Shall We Begin’ (reviewed here) and immediately set the tone for this thoughtful and engaging evening in the spiritual surroundings of this attractive hall. Her songs interweave lyrical honesty with a heartfelt vocal performance supported by a single guitar; combining to great effect particularly on the glorious ‘Evangeline’. Chloe also contributed harmony vocals and multi instruments for the rest of the show.
Headliner Jesca Hoop, brought her evocative songs to shine and intrigue, featuring many from her newest album ‘Order of Romance’. Her sparse guitar lines combine with sensitive percussion and bass as a platform for her distinctive voice and lyrics that pull the listener into a world of abstract imagery and personal reflections.
The music moves in unexpected directions, a balance of dark and light that gently sparkles in the excellent acoustics of this venue. The melodic beauty of ‘Lyrebird’ and ‘Pegasi’ were standout tracks, staying in the mind long after this brilliant show had ended.
John Bramwell (former frontman of I Am Kloot) opened the show with a combination of intriguing lyrics and intricate acoustic guitar lines, delivered with warmth and clarity. His sparse and thoughtful songs made an instant connection with the audience.
Two thirds of the way through a huge sold-out tour The Proclaimers return to Cambridge and as usual they deliver musically and emotionally to a packed hall of adoring fans. The show started with the title track from their new album; the duo continues to record and featured new songs throughout the set.
‘Over and Done With’ and ‘Should Have Been Loved’ are up-tempo fun songs boosted by their appearance in the excellent ‘Sunshine on Leith‘ movie, but it is the irresistible swirl of ‘Let’s Get Married’ and their debut hit ‘Letter from America’ that first raise the roof. At the heart of the show are many hidden gems; going back to their guitar/vocal roots for ‘Misty Blue’, the simple beauty of ‘Make My Heart Fly’ and spiritual intensity of ‘Sky Takes the Soul’. The political messages are still strong too, with the independence theme of ‘Cap in Hand'(from 1988) and especially the moving description of immigration ‘Scotland’s Story’ (2014) sounding bang up to date.
Craig and Charlie Reid have created a huge back catalogue of memorable songs with the contrasting giants of ‘Sunshine on Leith’ and ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)’ being the best known. Towards the end of the set these were of course received with massive enthusiasm as the superb band sound soared into the rafters of the venue. Finally, the party atmosphere of ‘The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues’ sent us away happy into the rain and fireworks until the next time…
First on stage at this sold out show was Kezia Gill; with her strong vocals and witty lyrics she won the audience over playing her opening track ‘Country Song’, featured on her 2021 EP ( reviewed here). From the tender reminiscence of ‘Local Man’s Star’ to the partying ‘Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman’, Kezia was a shining opening act.
From the USA, Eric Paslay has an impressive CV of collaborations, hit songs and awards. Tonight his engaging performance of these carefully crafted tracks brought the listeners into his world of subtle disquiet and emotional celebration.
It has been a long delay before headliners The Shires arrived in Cambridge for this tour but tonight’s show made up for the wait. The duo were supported by a spot-on band for a set that alternated rockers (‘Lightning Strikes’), grand ballads (recent single ‘I See Stars’), and the emotional pull of very personal statements (not a dry eye in the house for ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’). Ben and Crissie are an instantly likeable pair, with the great strength that the two individual vocals can carry a song brilliantly but the combined harmonies of both voices are on another quite magical plane.
In a show of many highlights, by the time we reached the big finish of ‘A Thousand Hallelujahs’ the combined hands of the audience were definitely waving up to the heavens…
A musical highlight in the ‘Sound + Vision’ multi venue festival bringing new and established music and comedy to the city.
Unfortunately we missed indie strategists Death to Slow Music but arrived in time for some of the psychedelic noise burst of Cambridge favourites Lemondaze, fresh from a support slot for cult shoegazers Ride the previous evening. As on previous encounters, the density of the band’s sound engulfs the intimate confines of the Portland but there is always a loose and off beat ambience that warms the soul.
Chester-based trio Peaness played the whole of their soon to be released long-player ‘World Full of Worry’, starting with the gentle acoustics of ‘Take A Trip’ and the punchy previous single ‘Kaizen’. Full of light and shade the songs are relentlessly likeable and there is always instrumental twists and delights, given extra depth with the inclusion of a keyboard player for this opening night of their tour.
‘Doing Fine’ carries subtle sadness along with a crisp melody as does ‘Left To Fall Behind’ with the haunting refrain ‘…hoping for the best…preparing for the worst…’. The superb pop of ‘Hurts ’til it Doesn’t’ is identified by the band as a Beatles-type composition then the wistful ‘Sad Song’ finishes the main set.
Audience favourite ‘Oh George’ showcases Peaness at their best; politically biting, sharply delivered vocally and musically, but always with warmth and humour. Then ‘Same Place’ is a celebration of friendship before the emotional flourish of ‘Skin Surfing’ brings this excellent show to an end.
It was a full venue for the return of Public Service Broadcasting to Cambridge, along with opening act EERA, also part of PSB for this tour. EERA’s free-flowing sensuous songs build around sparse instrumentation and her echoing voice, especially on the low-fi ‘Christine’. She moved into rawer territory for ‘Ladder’ when PSB surprisingly appeared as a rocking backing band towards the end of this well-received set.
Public Service Broadcasting have broadened their distinctive sound with longer instrumental pieces on their new Berlin concept album ‘Bright Magic’, strongly featured tonight and described by the band; ‘….the album’s theme is light… the light bouncing off of Dietrich’s cheekbones, of neon signs in the rain. I wanted to celebrate movement, colour and joy in an urban environment….’
Decked out in white suits and with of course a brilliant sequence of lights and visuals their long set maintains unstoppable momentum.
The ‘Every Valley’ mining community tracks take on a distinct poignancy this evening as the Glasgow Climate talks were taking place at the same time, but the older ‘Sputnik’, ‘E.V.A.’, ‘The Other Side’ seem to be a timeless slice of history. 2014’s ‘The Race For Space’ also provides two of their showstoppers; ‘Gagarin’ complete with dancing astronauts and the manic energy finale of ‘Go’.
EERA’s vocals soared throughout, particularly in the glorious ‘Blue Heaven’, probably my favourite song of the night out of so many highlights. As the brass section added textures to the last song ‘Everest’ there was no doubt that PSB continue to be a formidable live attraction.
A much-anticipated show at this fine all-purpose venue, opening tonight with the passionate performance and emotionally powerful ballads of Dan Owen. First track ‘Icarus’ immediately pulled the audience in and with his warm anecdotes and a barnstorming blues rendition of ‘Little Red Rooster’ he set the positive tone for the evening.
After many years of performing and a long career break, County Affair are a four-piece having a second life promoting an Abbey Road recorded album of a new batch of Americana songs. The tracks deal with eternal country music themes, joined with a likeable background of accordion, keys, guitar and percussion.
Ward Thomas started with the low-key duet ‘Dear Me’ and as soon as they segued into the descending vocal harmonies in the chorus of ‘No Fooling Me’ and the bitter-sweetness of ‘Cartwheels’ we knew that the emotional and musical magic was all in place. With varying amounts of input from their empathetic band this was a fantastic set, balanced between the pop oriented songs of 2019’s ‘Restless Minds’ album and the big country ballads such as ‘Guilty Flowers’ and the stomping ‘I Believe In You’ as well as the heart-tearing ‘Someday’ and ‘One More Goodbye’. With final encore ‘Safe’ performed as just a duo the show had gone full circle as the harmonies gently floated in the air.
First onstage was US singer/songwriter Samantha Crain, a performer with a quiet authority evident from the first track ‘Joey’; a languid leisurely waltz with the gentle instrumentation as a perfect platform for her rich vocals. The tempo was increased for ‘Pastime’ and through her short set her accompanying musician played pedal steel, second guitar and keys to add extra colour to the involving narrative strengths of the songs. A highlight was the emotive tale told in ‘Elk City’, sung to a solo guitar as her overall performance effortlessly won over the audience.
The Staves create an intimate and welcoming musical atmosphere; opening song ‘Failure’ features the harmonies and indie folk rock ambience that instantly draws the listener in. Sisters Camilla and Jessica (Emily is currently not touring) are joined by an empathetic band that knows how much to push the sound forward or keep in the background more for a track like ‘Good Woman’; the title song from the 2021 album that makes up most of the set.
The songs can move into moody territory like the walk through a dark forest of ‘Blood I Bled’ or luxuriate in the deceptively simple beauty of ‘Make It Holy’. It all flew by in a delicious haze of ethereal melody and musical textures, a triumphant performance after too long away..
This is a new version of La Yarará by Malena Zavala; it was the title track on her second album released earlier this year but this is an as-live studio recording cut at the legendary Abbey Road studios. The singer is based in London but draws on her Argentinian roots, she describes herself as being influenced by many sub genres; Cumbia, Afro-Cuban, Afro-funk, Andean folk, Argentine folk, bolero-son, and for this track, ‘reggaeton’ which is a music style originating in Puerto Rico during the late 1990s.
From the mysterious ascending keyboard in the introduction before the full band effortlessly join in the party it is a sinous, flowing track which evokes the image of the serpent of the title. As well as Malena’s sparkling voice the percussion and unadorned drums are crucial to the essence of the song and a spectacular trumpet solo appears from nowhere and nearly steals the show at the end as it duels with the graceful electric guitar lines.
I saw Malena and her band at the Blue Moon in Cambridge last year (see review below) so this is a reminder for me of an excellent show which has stayed in my memory…