LIVE: Amidships with Lauren Shera – Katy Dalys, Belfast

1097999_10151731255679437_1275954048_nThe pub was slow at filling up on the late summer’s Sunday that Lauren Shera and Amidships shared the billing at Katy Daly’s. Nashville based Lauren was first to play, and she just took to the corner where the mikes had been set up and basically just started singing. No intro, just starting strumming and that voice coated the room.

The Crashing Sea’ from her Gold and Rust album was fodder for First Aid Kit. It was pure folk drama with big landscape imagery and long notes that showed off her voice. In the middle of this majesty a couple of lads decided to chat like they were at a bust stop and then  a while later someone else broke a glass and called out ‘My bad’ on his way to the dustpan. She wasn’t fazed. Obviously well used to gigging she and her velvet voice just beautifully carried on. When she finished she called over “Hey guys are you wasted already, this is a folk gig!”

Stepheny and Aqbar’ was an interesting one in which her keening vocals truly pulled the emotions out of the song. (On the Gold and Rust album this is sung as a duet with Matthew Hegarty from Matthew and the Atlas). ‘Hell’s Bells’, the single from that same album then followed. She confessed that she didn’t realise there was an AC/DC number of the same name before she gave the record its moniker.  It is a song, she said, “about watching somebody change in front of your eyes”. You could tell after a few lines that she’s been there, and she’s done that.

We were treated to a great pared back version of The Black Keys’ ‘Little Black Submarines’.  Then ‘Light and Dust’ gave you that dusty late summer folk feeling in your stomach, which makes sense as she told us that there “is lots of hippy” running through her music because that’s where her hearts’ at.

And then she was finished. The set seemed short, but that could be just because it was good. I would go see Lauren Shera again. Her simply beautiful, effortless voice; and the craftsmanship in her song writing had the strangest affect. They were both calming and dramatic at the same time. Standing with just that guitar as back-up was obviously the most natural state in the world to her. I hope she comes back.

There are usually 5 or so on stage when you go to see Amidships. Tonight it was just two; John-Paul McCorley (JP) and Chris Bateman. They started with ‘Brother Be Still’ which immediately highlighted JP’s gracious strong voice.  “The light that you had still resides…” It was melancholy and aching and a striking start to the set.

Friendly Fire’ is usually louder when they play it, more big guitar and drums. This two-piece version had a sweet melodic chorus you could whistle on your way home. The last line was slightly adapted to “and your guitar strap falls off in the middle of your song”. Well we had to applaud him for that as he fixed the blighter.

Sine Waves’ gorgeous opening bars started the song as it meant go on.  JP’s voice warbled occasionally and Chris’ harmonies carried that classic Amidships quality. ‘The Ocean, The Layers’ is my favourite song of theirs. Tonight’s offering was a gentler version with no percussion and an almost experimental feel to it (to be honest the whole set had that feel to it). The guitar was virtually humming in the background and JP’s voice on occasions through the song put me in mind of Devendra Banhart.

‘Lost’ was the loudest and fastest of the set with a big voice and subtle harmonies. It was meant to be the last song but they were easily persuaded to give us another one – eventually – as a guitar malfunction caused lots of fiddling up there behind the mikes until they returned to us with their truly last offering of the evening.

Dover’ was a story to listen to. The guitar gauged the feeling for us and the harmonies were the best we had heard all night. It was like a button had been turned on at the second mike. They reached a point in the song when they gently repeated the line “there was a fire” with the guitar smoothly bouncing deep into it, the volume moving in and out of the room. It was gorgeous.

When they reached the last line “When we got to Dover there was no one there”, JP’s voice was deep and the last couple of words were almost Elvis-like. Very magic indeed. Cara Gibney, GiggingNI.com