Star FC 25 August 2011: Jeanna Leslie & Siobhan MillerI went along tae see this duo last night. Jeanna played electric piano and fiddle and the girls were joined on stage by a guitarist whose name escapes me. Both girls sang very prettily.
The first thing I noticed was the fact that the guy's guitar just wasn't cutting through, and, when I looked roon it wiz tae see CJ lookin distinctly unamused and irritatit, so ah knew thit thur wiz sum sorta 'technical difficulties' goin oan. That wizny the only technical misstep that this fairly new and relatively inexperienced wee band made. It turned oot thit it wiz the boay's guitar pedal thit wizny workin properly and causin an intermittent signal and this helped creat an unbalanced sound wi too much piano and too little guitar. So, wi that in mind, whit aboot the performance?
Fur me, the lassies hiv beautifully trained voices which are easy on the ear - as long as you can hear what they're singing (another wee technical misstep, but ah'll move on). They look beautiful annaw. The double effect of looks and sound is often enought to carry a performance for the uncritical but ah need a wee bit mair.
Basically, fur me, the main jar of the evening was the ability of an ever increasing numbers of paid performers in the Folk scene to sing every song in a similar way, thus creating an effect that every song sounds the same and the listener is ultimately left with the impression that only one song was sung all evening. It's particularly prevelent in ballad singers, and Siobhan Miller was no exception. Her first ballad, 'The Death of Lady Jane'; a song of great pathos was sung very, very well, evoking the sadness and heroism within the song in her performance and it was greatly appreciated by her audience. The girls gave a nice rendition of their other songs, sometimes complementing each other's voices and, on one occassion, switching lead which added a nice other dimension to things, but overall I was underwhelmed by what I was hearing.
But then came the first real surprise: after only being on stage for 30 minutes they indicated that their next song would be the last for that first set. Thinking that they had decided to stop early so that they could sort their other difficulties out, I was not overly concerned. I presumed that their second half would run for longer to compensate for the shortened first set.
After the raffle, there is often (if not usually) a second floor spot before the reintroduction of the main act to end the evening's entertainments but last night there was no such delight and the show re-started by the girls and their guitarist. The sound was better but still not to the standard that we have come to expect from CJ, Adam or Ian (whoever is twirling the knobs on any Thursday) but we settled down to listen to some nice songs sung by lovely girls. Things were going ok but after about 30 minutes we were again informed that the next song was going to be their last! Sure enough, the concert - which we had expected to finish around 10.45 - actually did so at 10.15: the earliest end to a folk evening in a folk club that I can ever remember!
Ultimately, for me, the evening was disappointing on so many levels. The style was all very presentable and pretty, but the substance was severely lacking. They are a duo (or trio in this instance) that I felt were still very much in need of mentoring and instruction. Hopefully they will take the time to learn their trade, but they were obviously a set-up with a mindset for the festival circuit rather than a full evening in a folk club. These two event types have very different dynamics and what works for one will not necessarily work for the other. If this is the beginning of a trend, then I worry about just what folk club audiences are expected to pay for? After a short gig like this at a festival there's always someone else to see, but when it's a stand alone band, it can be a lot less satisfying. I know of one person feeling that they were hardly in the place before it was time to leave. Usually when that happens, it's for the altogether different, more satisfying reason of the time flying by. Not so on here.
On the up side for some, it was great for the guys who stay to take down the miles of cables, the removal of the mike stands, the storing of the mics, the foldback amps, etc, etc... to be able to get home on the same day that they started the job!
Tonight it's Partick. Here's hoping...