Aoife O’Donovan – Dingwalls (London, UK – January 29, 2014)
I should mention that I absolutely love Crooked Still, so am probably a little biased.
I saw them in 2009 at The Cluny 2 after a friend recommended them and I’d only heard their version of ‘Ain’t No Grave’. I was completely blown away and bought everything they were selling at the merch table. I’ve seen them twice since, once at Gateshead Old Town Hall and at Celtic Connections a couple of years ago – their version of ‘Locust in the Willow’ with the members of Lau was one of the best live performances I have ever seen.
This was the first time I’ve ever seen Aoife solo. I enjoyed her solo album from last year as I think it showcased her voice and guitar in a different way to Crooked Still…much more to the fore than before.
While this is a solo show, Aoife sings and plays guitar and is backed by a formidable band – Robin MacMillan (drums), Jacob Silver (bass), Austin Nevins (guitar) and Kristin Andreassen (vocals and harmonica). The band are all great performers, tight and enthusiastic, but Austin Nevins, who I’ve seen before with Josh Ritter and Anais Mitchell, is simply awesome. He creates such an array of textures, riffs and sounds you would think there is a pedal steel player or a second guitarist hiding somewhere.
Aoife is the undeniable star of the show. Her vocals are incredible. She can sound vulnerable and heartbroken, then strong and powerful, often in the same song. If I was a teenage boy, a poster of hers would adorn my wall.
The band play the songs from ‘Fossils’ with aplomb and throw in a traditional, gospel tune and a Blaze Foley cover. I especially liked ‘Thursday’s Child’, ‘Beekeeper’ and Red & White & Blue & Gold’. The cover was a duet between Aoife and Kristin that was so beautiful that as soon as the show was over I put on ‘Your Heart is a Glorious Machine’ by Sometymes Why that features Aoife, Kristin and Ruth Ungar Merenda for my journey home.
There is a gospel element to Aoife’s performance, along with folk, country and jazz, but it’s decidedly non-religious. I almost feel a church would be the perfect venue to hear her play.
As an encore, Aoife came back and performed a gorgeous cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio’ on her own that was a fantastic way to finish the show. A great video of Aoife performing this at Celtic Connections is on YouTube.