Shanade with guests Nicky Ager & Aaron DudfieldReview
By now I'm sure you'll be aware of the many bees in my bonnet as I tend to repeat much the same obsessions in most reviews, so when I rave on about the quality & diversity of performance & compositional art on show at the Magic Lantern on Friday, please excuse me. But it was true. The show was headlined & compèred by Shanade Morrow & featured her guests Nicky Ager and Aaron Dudfield. Three wholly different singer songwriters: you could not mistake one for another in terms not only of how they perform but also in how they approach their writing. However they did have much in common: a passion & obvious love for what they were doing, a full on commitment to delivery & a most thoughtful & honest way of writing songs: all three were most articulate in talking about their craft & songs: in fact I learned much about the genesis of some of Shanade's songs which although I have heard them played many times, I was not hitherto aware.
First up to the mic was Nicky. He is a real "musician's musician", greatly respected in the local musical community but not perhaps with the highest live profile: look out for him at open mics and festivals because you will be in for a rare treat. Playing two differently tuned guitars, his unusual chording (rather jazzy in tone) complements the equally unusual song structures: you can sit there watching him play without having any firm idea of what is coming next: and that's within individual songs. Nicky claims to write either songs of "regret" or "self loathing" (or both at once), though it is certainly difficult to describe his set closer about the coming out of his sister as either: it was joyous, and his between song humour very uplifting. His only cover was written by Leonard Bernstein which was astonishing in execution & shows you the level of musicianship. This set the evening up for a powerful bond between audience and artists: I can't recall applause of the level Nicky received from the very start at the Magic Lantern before, at least from so early on & it continued in that vein all night.
Second up, Aaron was previously unknown to me, so I was as pleased to be introduced to a "new" artist as I had been to witness Nicky's set. He brought no fewer than three instruments: a Les Paul, acoustic guitar & ukulele & in the end, judging the mood & feel of the intimate space opted to use the latter two only. I imagine that given the Gibson in his possession, Aaron can & does play loudly at times, but tonight his delivery was really quiet, almost whispering into the mic at times & playing delicately throughout (I should point out that the whole evening might be called a "night of picking": all three musicians picked their entire sets: in fact right at the end of the night, Shanade wanted a plectrum for a song: there wasn't one in the house. No one had brought one).
Shanade has been reviewed many times in "Hot Music Live" (not least by me) and that's appropriate for one of the area's leading musicians & one whose musical interests stretch across genres. I've witnessed her playing solo many times but also with a great variety of other musicians (hands up anyone who's not played with Shanade) but there is still something vey special about her shows with just her magnificent voice & her guitar. This evening was certainly one of the best & given that this form of gig isn't one she's been playing very recently (check out her current collaboration with Clint Bruder, Justin Bygrave & Andy Haring: ‘Dark Sparks'), a particular treat. To a room packed (and spilling into the next) with an audience who interestingly were not necessarily existing fans of any of the artists (though judging by the number who went up to each at the end to express their appreciation, there were numerous converts), Shanade enraptured everyone with one of her most incandescent performances. Unleashing her incredible vocals on a range of recent & new songs (one brand new one really knocked me & everyone whom I spoke to out: almost furious in delivery & lyrics I can't wait to hear it recorded, though Shanade did describe it to me as a "work in progress", so I can't even share its name with you. You'll just have to go to one of her gigs & hear it for yourselves). Another new piece I hadn't heard before was for her baby son (it might be called "Sun". Or it might be called "Best Friend") and which due to its musical compatibility she played as a medley with her superb "Lessons". On the other hand I have heard songs like "Who Is The Lion", "Gambling Man" and "Devil Get Gone" on numerous occasions: all excellent versions with bands & without, but this evening's were particularly excellent played with an especial intensity.
I left the venue a very satisfied & happy chap & it is clear I was far from alone.