I very often find myself comparing the bands I’m reviewing with other bands, A singer with another singer etc. In the case of last nights guest at the Harmonie there was no danger of that happening. Gabby Young is so different that they had to invent a genre just for her sound. Ask at your local music store for the ‘Circus Swing’ section from the three cd’s there – all of them killers.
The couple I meet outside the main hall at Bonn Harmonie just thought they’d come to a concert this evening. Gabby Young? What sort of music does she play? Luckily the doors opened before I had to put Gabby’s style into productive words. You’ll find out a little more about the lady starring this evening from my INTERVIEW but to truly get at Gabby Young’s heart and soul you have to hear her sing.
The tables are out, it’s a Wednesday evening after all and not the best day to play a concert anywhere. Even so there are quite a few people in the hall. Some are dressed in a somewhat avant garde way, none more so than the tall gentleman seated to my left and wearing a bright red ladies wig.
Not brighter though than the redhead who steps onto the stage with an infectious grin that reminds me a little of Zaz (and that’s as far as the comparisons with any other musician living or dead will go this evening I promise). The starter is also the starter from Gabby’s second album ‘In Your Head’ and it’s a good enough description of where the music goes all evening. Listen to the lyrics for starters. Quirky at times but also wickedly compelling too:
“I’ll take the back of the room,
Where the view is impaired,
And the seats are cheap,
Cos no-one will go
Where no-one has been
Except maybe me”
There’s an excellent six-piece band behind the Lady too. Paul Whalley’s guitar, Richard Watts trumpet and Milly Mcgregor’s violin all play a vital part in the texture and unique sound of the band. Even the serious countenance of Niall Wood’s on drums clad as seemingly always in a leopard style furry hat seems to be saying something even if I’m not sure quite what. A vagabond band of circus gypsies thrown togethet with nothing but their talents to fall back on.
Gabby is, as always,stylishly dressed in a bright multi-petticoated creation that would catch anyone’s eye if it wasn’t of course for her hair which is fated to always grab the eye first and foremost for it’s bright red colour and then for the feathers and flotsam artfully set in it.
It’s tough I know, but stop looking at her and start listening to Gabby Young. She really does have an amazing voice. It’s high enough to capture the attention and just (only just at times) on the right side of piercing. At times it’s absolutely mesmerizing. My favourite track off the new disc ‘Fear of Flying’ is a perfect example of how perfect her voice can be. I miss the wonderfully forlorn organ sound of the CD version, and if I do have a criticism of the evenings music it is simply that some of the best moments on the new disc are based around keyboards and the band are both Hammond and piano-less (okay, they do have an accordion, before anyone corrects me!). The song is still as perfect as anything I’ve heard onstage this year though.
The audience seems to know Gabby’s material very well and there is something from everything played in the set. What’s interesting, to my ears anyway, is how the new material seems weightier, less frivolous, than the early work. ‘Smile’ may be about making someone happy, but it does so from the weighty perspective of lightening someones heavy depression:
“The tint is a rose in my specs,
But you see grey and it reflects.
Every time I turn around,
It’s a frown…”
There is a perfectly encapsulated weariness of soul in ‘Another Ship’ and ‘back of the Car’. A sense of deep feeling that has had me playing the disc from start to finish and then starting all over again.
It seems no accident then that when it comes time for some fun and dancing it’s the old favourites that are brought out as closers. It doesn’t take much cajoling for Gabby to have everyone up and singing two part harmony to ‘Whose House’ and she has them dancing to the Russian swagger of ‘Ask You A Question’ with equal ease.
There was indeed so much good music going down that I’d forgotten all about my favourite track. Before the show I’d spotted the set list and had to ask Paul Walley about it as he fine tuned a guitar. Oh yes, it’s on the list here – ‘ WAITT’ it said rather unhelpfully. And wait I had to – until almost the end when ‘We’re All In ThisTogether’ rang out and I could almost see the little cartoon mole from the video running round the feet of the band.
Gabby Young is one of the most creative people I’ve ever met and the early frivolity has now developed a weight to it at times that makes what were good songs great. In short, She was good before, but like her new single announces: ‘I’ve Improved – I’m getting better’
She certainly is!