Words: Leah Curtis
It’s a Tuesday evening in Edinburgh and I’m hidden at the back of The Ballroom in The Voodoo Rooms, notebook and pen poised at the ready. It’s my first time in this venue, so I’m quite excited to see, or rather hear, what is going to hit my eardrums though the sound system I’m not used to. The set-up is rather nice, with a few tables at the front and a row of chairs. It’s comfortable and classy at the same time.
At just past 8pm, with the venue filling up, Ella the Bird (who played with The Barr Brothers last year in Glasgow) takes to the stage. She just clambers on, picks up her guitar and starts. In the audience, silence falls and no-one makes a sound as the music floats across the room. She starts off with a melodic tune, which is very ambient, on top of which she places soft vocals. It’s breathtaking and almost moving. Her second song is slightly more upbeat, which is nice, it almost shows a build up of what is yet to come. She is starting off slow and building her way up to something bigger. For her third song, she moves on to the piano and sings a song called “Coward”. Her voice is amazingly soft and sweet and it doesn’t whizz round the room and hit you in the face, it gently floats like a snowflake and falls so softly, it just brushes you. Next, she mixes things up a bit by playing a Joni Mitchell song (unfortunately I didn’t catch the name of the song) which is amazing and her vocal range is fantastic. The man sitting next to me tells me it is a very good cover, as good as the original. She ends the set by picking up an acoustic guitar and thanks the audience for having her. She tells us she has some E.P’s on sale at the back and then plays a song called “All Dressed Up”, which is probably my favourite song of her set.
After a short interval (the kind that leaves you enough time for a cigarette outside and a cola at the bar) The Barr Brothers take to the stage. They nod and say “hello” then jump straight into their first song. I think the most fascinating thing about this song, is the use of a violin bow on a guitar. In their second song (Love Ain’t Enough) they throw in more fascination, when the drummer plays the spokes of a bike wheel as part of the percussion section. The introduction is long but has so many amazing instrumental parts and sections with no singing, no-one minds. The Barr Brothers as a live band have your “usual” band instruments: guitar, drums and bass. Only the bass is a double bass and they also have a harp and a “Peddle Steel Guitar”, which is a fascinating instrument. About half way through their set, the lead singer has a little chat with the audience, whilst another band member (the one on the peddle steel) runs off for what can only be described as the world’s quickest pee. After this, the lights are dimmed for a slow, sweet song. This is the first time we can hear the harp properly and it’s nice. After this we hear a song called “Sarah Through the Wall” which is the song that relates to how the band started. It’s always nice to hear these kinds of songs, it shows a band is grounded and hasn’t let fame get to their heads. They play a few more songs, each as amazing as the last and thank Ella the Bird for opening the show for them. When they go off stage, we all know there is going to be an encore. They wouldn’t leave us hanging on, eager for more, without saying goodbye. They do indeed come back on and play more for us, satisfying our hunger. When they lights eventually do come back up, an hour and a half after they started, I am left feeling relaxed and amazed by what has just hit my eardrums. If I needed to rate it out of 10, I would definitely give this gig an 11.