Gig two of the week: Bryde at Henry Tudor House in Shrewsbury. Yes, I know, that’s even further away from Liverpool than Manchester is. But I like Bryde’s debut album so much I wanted to make sure I caught her live this year and this was the closest show she was doing to where I live, or at least it was once I realised I’d missed her recent band tour.
It turns out that her performance was part of a regular night at the venue called ‘Live in the House’. Quite a cultured, songwriters-circle kind of event. The place was full of regulars actually, locals who go to see live music there all the time. And it is a really great place – a timber framed inn originally built in the early 1400s. The performance space is in the attic (which you get to via a winding staircase), nice acoustics and pretty intimate. To give you some context, this is the view I had of the stage from my barstool at the back of the room.
First up on stage was Shrewsbury local Jessie Reid. Her opening track was an intricate guitar instrumental, very Nick Drake sounding to me with a lot of finger picking and complicated runs. It was song two though that made me sit up and properly take notice as she opened her mouth and revealed a really great, delicate, and quite indie sounding voice. That’s what gave the otherwise classic folkiness of the next few tracks their edge. And as her set progressed, she became ever more interesting I thought. There was a millennial edge to what she was doing, a definite modernity to the folk sound she was using as a foundation, in the same sort of vein as Kings of Convenience I guess. And I was properly sold when she started playing her guitar like Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead. That was awesome. I’m going to blame my inability to remember the name of the song on my age, but I do know it was the one she said she’s about to release as her debut single. So watch out for that because it’s brilliant.
Reid spent the set sitting down, quite clearly a requirement of her guitar playing technique, and the seating was very flat, so this is the best photo I could get really.
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After watching Reid, and noting the absence of anything on the stage other than a mike stand and an amp, I was fully expecting Sarah Howell to perform acoustically too. If I’m being completely honest, I felt a pang of disappointment when I came to this assumption because I thought that might mean she wouldn’t play some of her best songs. I was wrong anyway: she took to the stage with a very cool looking eggshell blue electric guitar. It was a solo set, but a solo electric one. Given that decision and the setting, it brought to mind the Jeff Buckley recordings from his live shows at Sin-E.
Like Buckley, Howell very quickly proved she has both the voice and the guitar skills to pull that kind of thing off, launching straight into ‘Wouldn’t That Make You Feel Good?’ from her second EP. That was one of the songs I feared I might miss out on. Not only did she play it, it sounded fantastic too. You know what they say about assumptions right? All my favourites were in the setlist actually: ‘Honey’, ‘Peace’, ‘Help Yourself’. There was a blistering version of ‘Less’ towards the end that threatened to bring the plaster down from the walls. (Incidentally, Howell did mention that her band was originally booked to play but she had decided that that probably wouldn’t work so well in this particular performance space – probably a good shout I would say).
There were a few goosebump moments in there for me. Both ‘To Be Brave’ and ‘Wait’ had the hairs standing up on my arms. They would probably have been standing up on the back of my neck too if I still had hair on the back of my neck. There was something in her voice on these tracks, a change-up of key here and there that really got me. It’s these kinds of moments in gigs I live for really.
If you get the chance to see Bryde live, my advice would be to do it. Don’t think about it, just do it. She’s a genuine talent – you should have seen the queue for her CD once the performance was over and the ‘Live in the House’ regulars had realised this too. And if you get the chance to get down to Henry Tudor House then do that too. It’s the perfect space to see artists like Bryde up close and really take in the quality of what they’re doing.