Concert Review: Marry Waterson & Emily Barker and Michele Stodart

April 4, 2019
King Place, London

“I’m from The Magic Numbers where we have a lot of singalongs”
It’s not uncommon at a venue like Kings Place to be able to hear a pin drop during a performance. For Michele Stodart’s set, that was true during her introductions too. Despite being a seasoned professional – it’s 14 years since The Magic Numbers’ debut album came out – even she seemed awed by the sense of occasion.

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Her performance was heartfelt, tender and mesmerising. Her newer songs have an endearing sense of optimism, centring on finding new love and hope.

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“I have to go free range on the microphone!”
Anyone familiar with Emily Barker knows it’s fairly normal for her to launch new musical partnerships unexpectedly. Her latest project is a surprise only in its return to a previous style – usually it’s a curve ball of a new genre!

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However, the folk she’s creating with Marry Waterson is more lo-fi and downbeat than the angelic harmonies of her work with The Red Clay Halo. Barker and Waterson began collaborating at a writers’ retreat organised by their mutual friend and just didn’t stop. Although Barker almost inadvertently spoiled it all by pulling out a banjo, much to Waterson’s silent horror – she was just too polite to say that she hates the instrument!

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On stage, Waterson’s strident hands-on-hips demeanor drew attention while Barker, Lukas Drinkwater and the rest of the band played an array of instruments.

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Not to be left out, Waterson occasionally had instruments of her own: a reception bell and a megaphone!

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Somehow, they weren’t the most unusual instruments of the night. Producer Adem Ilhan had a music box to accompany Disarm Me, a lullaby ditty voiced by Barker.

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Waterson’s vocal was sombre, especially in All Is Well about looming depression. Meanwhile, Barker’s higher voice and sunny disposition lit the edges. Indeed. one of the highlights of the gig was her jazzy vocal on Trick Of The Light.

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Waterson’s fantastic artwork perfectly complemented each song: mesmerising, sometimes surreal and sometimes even unsettling.

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The show ended where the Waterson and Barker Venn diagram intersects: the song Bright Phoebus. Waterson’s uncle wrote the song and Barker had recorded it on her 2008 album, Despite The Snow. The crowd sang along heartily, as did Michele Stodart.

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Waterson and Barker’s album, A Window To Other Ways, is out now on One Little Indian Records. At no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click the image below and make a purchase. Thank you!

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