When Gemma Hayes recently appeared near the top of the NME’s cringe-worthy ‘Sexiest Female’ vote it was a surprise, not because she’s not an attractive lady, but because the rag had otherwise failed to mention the Irish singer/songwriter in the past few years.
Which is a shame. Gemma Hayes took a couple of years out after touring her Mercury-nominated debut ‘Night On My Side’, 2005’s returning album ‘The Roads Don’t Love You’ was strong, as is the new album, ‘The Hollow Of Morning’.
Quite timid at first, but quickly relaxing into the music, Gemma started with the new album’s opener, ‘This Is What You Do’ and followed it with ‘Happy Sad’. Both good songs but the loud, pointlessly sustained notes between them drowned out attempts at applause. Gemma gently joked that it was so she couldn’t tell the same old stories between songs but thankfully her bassist stopped after that.
Much of the set was gentle and contemplative, but the sole cover of the night took things up a couple of notches, the song I think being ‘Farewell To The Pressure Kids’ by Broken Social Scene‘s Kevin Drew. “That was fun” said Gemma afterwards, and it was.
‘Chasing Dragons’ reined things back in before one of the set highlights (and personal fave) ‘Back Of My Hand’ which was excellent and raised the hairs on the back of my neck, ‘Oliver’ was prefaced by a childhood story about the time Gemma nearly had a nail hammered into her head by a jealous cousin. Suddenly her cousins’ non-appearance in the audience was looking more like a blessing…
Gemma was left by the rest of the band to perform ‘Something In My Way’ and ‘Easy On The Eye’ unaccompanied. When they returned it was with the same energy that went into the Kevin Drew cover, with ‘Out Of Our Hands’ rollicking along and perhaps showing the influence of Kevin Shields, who part-produced her most recent album.
Skipping off-stage briefly, Gemma returned for an encore consisting of a lovely, solo version of ‘November’. All in all, the evening was a good showcase of an artist just below the mainstream’s radar. Whether or not she has the songs to gain a higher level of recognition, as long as she plays with the kind of form she showed at the Glee Club she’ll keep her fans coming back for more.