Live - Siv Jakobsen, Einar Stray, plus Jo Rose and Caoilfhionn Rose
I wanted to write a few words about the Siv Jakobsen / Einar Stray / Jo Rose / Caoilfhionn Rose gig at the Castle Hotel Manchester on Tuesday night without it being a formal 'review' as such, I just went along to enjoy it without any thought to writing down set lists or thinking of interesting informative points to make about the performances. Furthermore we’ve covered Siv and Einar (the Nordic artists involved) fairly extensively on the website, and you all probably know our views on how special we think they are. Also apologies that the photos aren't the best, we didn't want so disturb the ambience of the night by snapping away, and just took a couple of photos from the back.
Firstly the Castle Hotel remains my favourite small venue, and yes of course it has a sentimental place in our brief existence as a blog given that we decided to set up NMR after seeing Moddi here exactly 18 months ago, but it has character and normally a really appreciative small crowd, who enjoy really good music. It has also been host to a stream of good Nordic artists over the last couple of years from Black Lizard to Frokedal, and the beer (along with, as Siv pointed out, the Cider....) is pretty fine too. So it was for the reason, amongst a few other logistical complications, that we chose to come to Manchester rather than the Liverpool gig the following night.
With performances starting at 7.45pm, we were always going to get value for money, and it was so lovely to see an Einar Stray solo set opening the evening. We love the Einar Stray Orchestra, and whilst there was only time for about 4 tracks (and there were some technical issues), immediately I was struck by the beauty of his piano playing, and he also seems to be one of these artists who’s voice is as perfect as it is on the albums. For me the stand out moment was the performance of ‘For the Country’, which without the harmonies and with Einar standing on stage alone, was even more profound and thought provoking than I could possibly have imagined.
There was barely time to eye jealously those who were obviously not driving and therefore buying pints of beer when Caoilfhionn Rose came on to the small stage, nervous in a sweet way at being on the same line up as Siv and Jo Rose. Caoilfhionn (whom i liked before i'd even heard her on account of her quoting 2 of my favourite bands, The Mummers and Melodys Echo Chamber as influences) has this natural captivating charm, a lovely voice and a fair selection of well written old and new songs despite being still in the early stages of her career - highlights were new track 'Amy' (which had such a nice but simple premise to it) and the final track 'Wild Anemones'.
I still feel terribly guilty that i hadn't come across Jo Rose much before (sometimes i get distracted by being sent so much Nordic stuff...), but given that i was expecting Siv Jakobsen to be good this outstanding performance was the lovely surprise of the evening. I would love to watch him perform again, as I've listened to his music a few times already since Tuesday, but he is also such a lovely stage presence - humorous, interesting and totally relaxed. It was a real privilege to listen to him.
We hardy had chance to buy another drink before Siv Jakobsen opened her set, accompanied by the masterful Einar Stray on keyboards. Her performance was everything that i expected it to be, just even more perfect. She played (apologetically, even if there was no need to be...) a couple of new tracks, both about 'Leaving', we were treated to Fix You, Dark and then the amazing 'How We Used to Love', which is still my favourite Siv track. She seemed genuinely appreciative of the quiet captivated audience, but that silence was a reflection of the tone that all the performers had set. In between songs she chatted easily about the best Chinese food outside China, Cider,a big freeze in New York and the car accident that led to 'How We Used to Love'. At the end we even got a beautiful version of a Joni Mitchell song as an encore.
Ok ok ok, so that wasn't a 'few' words after all, but 3 hours of music can't be summarised in 100 words. A huge thank you to all the performers for coming to our favourite venue, but an equally big thank you to the promoters 'Are We Strangers Now', - events such as these need promoters who are willing to put on gigs like this, and it encourages us again that we should do another one ourselves again soon.
If you don't know some / all of these artists please check them out in the places below: