Rachel Sermanni with support from Robyn G Shiels
3rd October 2012 – Voodoo, Belfast
If it’s a cold night and there’s nothing a’ doing then listening to Robyn G Shiels‘ live set is always a pleasure. In fact there are many at this intimate midweek gig in Voodoo who know that we have a real talent in our mist. R G plays without pretence and he may just be the epitome of ‘real’ whatever that may be for each of us. The room isn’t black with people but the candles on the tables add to the warmth of the guitar-picking of online favourites ‘If I Were Thy Demon’ and ‘Courage to Hold’. The songs surely should bode well if they make it onto his next eagerly anticipated album which is due out soon. Robyn’s love and experience of much louder music is still to be found in even the most unlikely of settings as he gives us a taste of Rose Tattoo’s ‘Assault and Battery’. A much slower acoustic arrangement breaths new life to this heavy rock song from the hard line renegade Australian outfit. This hauntingly dark song gets a warm reception because when he sings the lyric ‘I’m just a working man,’ he makes it easily believable.
It is Shiels’ next song however that really gets the audience’s attention and appreciation. ‘Underneath The Night of Stars’ is a beautiful song with emotion and melody that would melt even Angry Anderson’s heart! An oldie but a goodie is next as ‘Sad is Sometimes as Lonely’ echoes around the venue from his earlier days. Robyn G Shiels’ connection with his audience is in the old time fashion of words between the songs. His self-deprecation is greeted with laughter as he builds up to playing a Springsteen cover of ‘I’m On Fire’. There is a near seamless link between this and fan-favourite ‘Hello Death’ that works well. This is a revealing set brought with truth, warts and all, but let’s be honest who’s really happy these days anyhow? When cut backs hurt, penny pinching stings, love evades and egos anger, I have heard it said if you reach for the R G you know that you have got a friend.
Rachel Sermanni is a confident performer whose music carries those who listen, away beyond the Bothy, round by the cold peaks of rugged Highland mountains to a tiny campfire in a hewn out of an upturned stone. What i’m trying to say is that she knows her onions when it comes to ‘finger picking poetic gentle.’ The set begins easily with the French feeling song ‘If I Had a Chocolate Bar’. Rachel’s warm personality shows through her audience interaction. She plays tracks from her album Under Mountains and ‘Breath Easy’ in particular is well received. Throughout the set the audience are treated to the full range of this powerful singer’s voice and this gets delivered with with the care of a brain surgeon’s scalpal. Her day dream description of what listening to Robyn G Shiels’ music does to her is well worth the entrance on its own, and this shows how comfortable she is in front of an audience. No surprise then that dreamy and dreamlike are the words to use as Sermanni picks her way around the wonderful Dream where she sings about the stars having their own solar system.
Things move up a notch and we hear a ditty about this singer’s time as a burger van worker, but overall his may be in the running for the quietest gig in town however for those in attendance full respect is shown to the artist. The more recent ‘I’ve Got A Girl’ penned after a series of dreams that the singer didn’t much enjoy is ironically very enjoyable for us. The apparent dream inspired Sermanni weaves her way through this particular Orwellian nightmare and the next nursery-rhyme-relief called ‘Marshmallow Unicorn’. Arguably the most honest song on the album, ‘Waltz’ gets aired next, followed immediately by the more up-tempo ‘The Fog’. It is here that the singer really lifts the audience with the power of her guitar strumming and vocal range! The one hour show comes to an end in Voodoo with the deeply romantic ‘To A Fox’. To the new wave of ‘finger picking poetic gentle’ in 2012, Rachel Sermanni shines and comes highly recommended.