14th October 2009
Reviewed by Colin Bertram
This was the first of what will hopefully be monthly folk gigs at the Storey and instead of issuing tickets, concert goers were given a small Uiscedwr badge which was a nice souvenir but as one person commented, tickets do have the advantage of having info like date, time etc. But this is a minor complaint for what was a well organised gig with Simon Harrison and Wes Martin deserving a pat on the back for all their hard work.
The support was an acoustic set from Joni Fuller who has played at the Gregson and the Dukes in recent months. She was backed by two guitarists, one of whom turned out to be her dad. Joni, who has just turned 18, attacks her piano and violin and sings with much enthusiasm and told us she had recently won a songwriting competition with one of the judges being Chris Martin of Coldplay. This to me said a lot about the audience she is aiming for. I was left rather cold by her performance but I was probably in the minority as she got more applause and cheers as her set went on. She’s certainly a talented individual but just not quite my cup of tea.
The same cannot be said about headliners Uiscedwr. Despite an overnight drive up from Essex the duo of Anna Esselmont and Cormac Byrne, joined by Nick Waldock on guitar and bass, played two hours of fantastic music. They are on the road promoting their new album Fish Cat Door but played a selection from all three of their albums. Audience participation was very much encouraged with singing on ‘No Going Back’ and whooping noises to be made on one set of tunes. The album name is a way of helping people to pronounce Uiscedwr – take away the F and T and you get ishcadoor.
Despite Anna looking most comfortable when playing her fiddle, she has a fine voice as demonstrated on numbers such as ‘Tip Tap Baby’ and ‘Yorkshire Tea’ which she kindly renamed ‘G and T’ for her Lancashire audience. The chemistry between Anna and Cormac was much in evidence on E.S.P. from the new album which featured just the two of them. On paper, fiddle and percussion alone might seem a bit sparse but in the hands of these fine musicians it was one of the highlights of the set. Similarly the addition of bass guitar might not sound like a winner but Nick managed to combine bass notes and chords on his 5 string to great effect.
Cormac showed why he has worked with some of the top names in folk music, including Seth Lakeman, with a dazzling solo performance on the bodhran which even managed to include the bass line of Queen’s ‘Another One Bites The Dust’. He and Anna obviously love playing together and it’s been a while since I’ve seen musicians smile so much on stage. Their energy and passion was infectious and I’m sure I’m not the only one who will hope to see them back in Lancaster in the near future.