Robyn G Shiels with support from Aborist
24th May 2013 – The Barge, Belfast
This evening we are on a boat. Honest to God, a real boat. It floats and everything. At first it seems a peculiar environment for a gig but it is a surprisingly good venue. The modestly sized hall is quickly packed and acoustically it’s one of the finest sounding rooms this reviewer has ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Now, all we need is a night of deliciously heartbreaking and maudlin music. With Robyn G Sheils front and centre, there is no shortage of his trademark melancholia delivered with consummate ease.
All too often Robyn is relegated to a support feature, reliably backing up innumerable artists but tonight Arborist are the ones setting up Robyn and they do it ever so well. The duo kick off tonights proceedings with ‘Incalculable Things’, their latest single is a lovely package of Elbow, David Gray and Mumford & Sons and it goes down very well. Mark McCambridge has a world weary, smoky voice and with the appropriately nautically themed ‘Broken Lights’ we have confirmation that even with three members unaccounted for Arborist are very capable of capturing a room with a professional and enjoyable performance.
It’s a short wait before Robyn G Shiels takes to the stage, promising not to curse with such reckless abandon as his folks are in attendance to provide some parental support. Robyn opens with ‘Hello Death’, his macabre classic, and the room is swiftly stunned into a silent reverence. It’s clear for all to see that a man with a timbre of this quality is justifiably held in such high regard and tonight we get to experience a full set rather than the fleeting cameos that we are so used to.
With ‘If I Were Thy Demon’ and ‘Sad is Some’ songs of the Devil, sin, and redemption fill the air and Robyn’s quiet yet soulful voice bounces of the wall and seemingly into everybody’s hearts. It almost seems a shame that Robyn is joined by his band as he effortlessly commands the room with just himself and his guitar. The fears that he might be lost amongst a full compliment are quickly alleviated with ‘This Deathly Charm’ and ‘Man To Your Wife’. As the band filters on stage we are eased into the change of pace and Robyn’s masterful stagecraft and lyricism continue to enthrall the audience.
As tonight is all about promoting the new EP and the trio of ‘A Man To Your Wife’, ‘Upon Such Things’ and ‘If Now Is An Echo’ are all trademark Sheils, and are hugely well received. It looks like we have another massive record from Robyn and the clamor for a new album is perfectly understandable, especially given the rapturous applause from his final track, ‘Underneath the Night of Stars’. On display tonight is an artist with an understated confidence that has a room caught hook, line and sinker. Songs that can break your heart yet are so elegantly crafted that you cant help but feel redeemed and blessed that we are experiencing an artist in his pomp. A wonderful evening.