Sunday, 10 February 2013

MUSIC REVIEW: Other Voices Derry, Night Two

The Glassworks audience are given another treat in the form of four outstanding female vocalists - and much more

Another night, another occasion for much quality tuneage as the crowds gather in the Glassworks church for the second night running. The opening night has already set a very high standard. Will tonight's four acts match, or even better, Neil Hannon, SOAK, Damien Dempsey and Savages? Time to find out...


When I see and hear Little Green Cars standing around a microphone and singing old-timey, folksy indie rock with only an acoustic guitar and tambourine to accompany them, I'm reminded of what might happen if The Carpenters had become a quintet. Nice and intimate though the performance is, you can't help but wonder if the band have more to offer than this.

As it turns out, they do. When Stevie Appleby, Donagh Seaver O'Leary, Dylan Lynch, Adam O'Regan and lead singer Faye O'Rourke take to their instruments and spread across the stage, O'Rourke's voice becomes prominent and the band's true appeal is recognised. If their music is a pleasantly entertaining brew, reminiscent of slipping into a nice warm bath after a hard days' work, it is O'Rourke's vocals which will resonate strongest - deep and understatedly commanding, with shades of Sharleen Spiteri and Chrissie Hynde.


If Paul Casey - performing as part of the backing band here tonight, incidentally - has established himself as Derry's Mr. Reliable, Bronagh Gallagher is becoming Derry's Miss Reliable. When the Pulp Fiction star takes the stage you are guaranteed sweet, passionate soul with a strong sprinkling of local humour and a touch of jazz - no more, no less.

Tonight she literally takes us, with apologies to Marc Cohn, walking in Memphis - or at least sets out to recreate the atmosphere of a 1970s Memphis church, with a spirit and attitude worthy of the legendary Al Green. This comes through most effectively on "Love Will Find You". Other highlights of this refreshingly laid back set, which goes down a treat in such surroundings, are the knowingly ironic storytelling of "Not A Star" and the smooth jive of "Fool".


For Jesca Hoop, the journey to the North West of Ireland has been a long one, from California via Manchester via Dingle to Derry. The question is, has she been worth waiting for?

When she takes to the stage and starts singing by herself, the feeling one initially gets is of watching what might happen if Lisa Hannigan decided to audition in a Tim Burton movie. That is to say, a sweet, melodic nightingale voice, an eccentric haircut, and the loveable quirks cranked up a notch, but to likeable rather than unbearable proportions.

That she makes a few mistakes early on doesn't matter, as the crowd are more than into the swing of things by now. The haphazard nature of her material is also irrelevant, as the all round gist of the set is so warm, bouncy and technically remarkable (the use of instruments to create an effective midtempo calypso is particularly impressive) that one can't help but go along with it. Forget Lisa Hannigan, there's aspects of Belle & Sebastian here. The irresistible "Ode To Banksy", with its fine pace and consistently off-the-wall humour, is the perfect conclusion to the set, marking her out as the star of the evening.

That is, until...


What is it about Wales and weirdness and, might I add, downright brilliance when it comes to the music scene? Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals fame has never looked like the most normal guy in the world on stage, but when one considers the quality of his tuneage - The Sunday Times once said that he "seems incapable of writing a melody that isn't utterly lovely" - does that matter?

On tonight's evidence, similar things could be said about every one's favourite synathesia sufferer, Greek-Welsh songbird Marina Diamandis. For the curious, Diamandis means "diamonds" in Greek - hence the band name, although Diamandis prefers to think of The Diamonds not as her backing band, but as her fans. With that in mind, there's diamonds everywhere this evening.

If Little Green Cars are promising, Bronagh Gallagher dependable, and Jesca Hoop delightfully quirky, Diamandis is hypnotic - a blend of presence, energy, vibrancy and sweetness that oozes effortlessly from singer to band to audience to television viewers. Tunes on show tonight include the catchy "Bubblegum Bitch", the creepily mesmeric "I Am Not A Robot" and the extremely witty "Hollywood". It's hard not to be won over by her intelligent lyrics and likable demeanour. Apparently, she has a real fondness for we Irish, and it shows.

Arguably, Diamandis is better when singing with greater passion and at a high tempo, but the overall ambience of the set allows one to overlook any minor inconsistencies. By the time she concludes, with "How To Be A Heartbreaker", you feel like she still has much more to offer us.

Beth Orton, Daughter, James Yorkston and Little Bear have some pretty big shoes to fill...

For more information on Other Voices, check out the official site or follow Other Voices on Facebook.