Celtic Connections 2020: Lucy Rose review Fionnuala Boyle
Celtic Connections continued with Lucy Rose at the Royal Concert Hall on 19th January, 2020 with support from Rory Butler and Chartreuse. The New Auditorium played home to a relaxed Sunday night crowd and three acts who gave them equally captivating performances.
Chartreuse were first to break the crowd in with robust vocals from front man, Michael. The band were in no rush – they took their time and held composure as they steadily made their way through each track, letting the crowd slip effortlessly into the rhythm and flow of their music.
Their second song brought beat and verve, with front woman, Harriet, leading the vocals and furthering the synchronicity between each band member. The harmonies between the male and female vocalists were subtle but effective and the bluesy feel of the track was only interrupted by the electric guitar which took the performance to a different level. Indeed every time a new concept or element to the performance was introduced, it felt natural and unforced rather than awkward or distorted.
Unafraid to experiment with genre and tempo, Chartreuse jammed out on stage together as if they were alone in the studio but they were definitely an apt choice of support considering the theme of this year’s festival, ‘Coastal Connections’. As the stage lights changed from cool toned blue to a jazzy pink-orange, it was easy to get swept up in their wave. ‘Midnight Oil’, their most listened to track on Spotify, was a particular highlight.
With less intensity than London Grammar but with too small an arrangement to merit a direct comparison with Royal Blood, Chartreuse are alternative, and their songs have nuance and edge. They are a tonic for the ears, and a perfect band to chill out to.
Next up was Rory Butler who went straight into ‘Linda’s Café’, before performing ‘Cigarettes and Silence’ and ‘Mind Your Business’. A song about Facebook, the singer/songwriter got a few chuckles from the crowd when he confessed that he spends half his life on the site “looking at things I don’t care about and people I don’t really know”. The song could have been about something way more meaningful than scrolling mindlessly through Facebook considering how emotive it was, but it still perfectly captured the feeling of aimlessness and isolation that comes with doing so.
Having last been at Celtic Connections as part of John Martyn’s anniversary gig, Butler swapped guitars and performed a rendition of one of Martyn’s songs. He sang with feeling and intent, and it was evident that last year’s concert had had a significant impact on him. Butler’s penultimate track ‘Tell Yourself’ was a sneak peek from his new album coming out in March and, saving the best ‘til last, he closed with ‘Have I Come Down’ which earned him roaring applause as he left the stage.
It was then time for Lucy Rose herself. Sitting at a large piano, Lucy Rose opened with ‘Nobody Comes Round Here’, her pristine vocals having you question whether you were listening to the live version or the album version. This was followed by ‘Pt. 2’, to which Lucy Rose revealed that although she thought she had expressed everything she wanted to on her last record, she couldn’t shake the feeling that for some of what she wanted to convey, words did not suffice. She resorted to ‘Pt. 2’; emotional vocals accompanied by a moving violin-led band.
Taking centre stage, the singer/songwriter opened up about how turning thirty last year had given her new questions about life and purpose, prompting a series of songs that were deeply introspective such as ‘Save Me From Your Kindness’, ‘Song After Song’ and ‘The Confines Of This World’. Candid about how others perceive her as well as her perception of herself, Lucy Rose did not shy away from admitting insecurity through song. With Celtic Connections being the last show of the No Words Left tour, her performance reflected a quiet optimism for the future. It may also have triggered a period of reflection on her music career thus far since she played ‘Middle of the Bed’, her best-known track but one she rarely performs.
With the concert still in full swing but the unreliability of the Sunday service on my mind, I was disappointed at the thought of leaving before my favourite song, ‘Shiver’. But I sensed it may have been next, and I was right. Confronting regret, nostalgia, longing and sorrow, ‘Shiver’ is a poignant track, and made me feel quite emotional hearing it live. On stage, Lucy Rose joked about her “miserable” songs. But, to me, ‘Shiver’ is not miserable. It is hopeful and real; it laments the end of something while acknowledging how beautiful it was. It is a feeling that’s difficult to capture in song, but Lucy Rose has captured it, and she’s captured it beautifully.
I’m so glad I went to see Lucy Rose. And I’m so glad I caught the last train home.
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