This reviewing thing can be a real chore. Within the last fortnight its been the Siren, hypnotic enchantments of Groove Armada’s, St Sensation; the famme-noir raven intoxication of Clare Maquire and now the husky, contralto purr of Celtic tigress, Amy Macdonald. Still, a gig’s a gig. The Academy audience dynamic is defined by the act it draws. Tonight, there’s no last pint before the apocalypse scramble at the bar together the encouraging sight of a number of younger punters having a half-term treat with discerning parents. There’s a buzz of anticipation and relaxed bonhomie.
Lone, solo support is David Ford, the multi-tasking troubadour who begins with a shaking and a rattling acapella stripped down mongrel of a talking blues. Passionate, percussive and plaintive. Next, a love song to Margaret Thatcher. It’s burlesque time as in turn he plays a refrain on guitar, puts it down, then some percussion, leaves that, on to piano then two different mics for vocals. They’re on digital loops one assumes. He’s constructed his very own virtual band. The penultimate number sees him giving the keyboards a serious stomping as the collective auto ensemble disintegrates in to an aural angstfest. A gentle soul all the same.
The lighting rig is moodily minimalist. The back-stage bathed in silhouette, luminescent red as if anticipating a Fred Astaire dance fantasia. The band crank up and on skips the lady herself sashaying a pink-crimson spangle crusted dress so glittery it must be hard-wired in to the Milky Way. Her forte is an alt.Folk, bluesy rock formula that is inevitably, and for the very best of reasons, compared to, in vocal dynamics at least, Melanie (for you older ones), Kirsty McColl and Dolores O’Riordan. Clearly, her very well spent childhood influences inform her work but there’s both an individuality and gravitas to her lyricism that makes her very much her own player. In particular, the intriguing structures of the plaintive, heart twister ‘Love, Love’ with nuances of Bee Bumble & The Stingers with a Blondie-ish chorus hook really stand out. Needless to say she has a scorching band who give her ample space to breath and not just there as support.
Macdonald has a disarming rapport with the audience; self-effacing, immensely appreciative of the support she’s had the past two years but never cutesy and well able to share a few wry anecdotes. And oh, that smile, those dolphin wavy, midnight shady eyebrows! OK, so she mentions collaborations with old enough to be dad/grandad icons Neil Diamond, Ray Davies and Paul Wellar? That’s name-dropping with panache. Songs such as the life-affirming ‘Spark’, and the somewhat cryptic ‘Footballer’s Wife’ are evidence of admirable lyrical intuition and maturity. Even at such a tender age hers is no ordinary life and makes ours equally so in sharing it. At the closing of cri de coeur, ‘Don’t Tell Me It’s All Over’, the end of an affair perhaps, but so much more, this review must sadly close due to a last minute, double-booking, panic dash across town to catch the closing set from I Like Trains at the Hare & Hounds. Very regrettably, it must be said, but serendipity beckons.
Set list: (approximately)Ordinary Life, Poison Prince, LA, Mr. Rock ‘n Roll, Footballer’s Wife, Love, Love,Spark, Pretty Face, Don’t TMIA Over, Troubled Soul,Give It All Up, Next Big Thing, No Roots, Run, This Is Life, What Happiness Means To Me, Run. (Encore had listed Born To Run + 1 but can’t confirm.)
Review – John Kennedy
Photos – Ian Dunn