It was a night of momentum, renewal and accomplishment. The latter is based on a personal odyssey of finally catching a Madison Violet show after unfortunate cancellations and the inconvenient interception of that rare British hindrance – snow. Renewal is the underlying inference of their current ‘The Back to The Roots Tour’ following an experimental period of artistic diversion. This fabulous show at Birmingham’s Glee Club took a few songs to get into its groove, but soon the Canadian duo of Brenley MacEachern and Lisa MacIsaac found the sweet spot and glided effortlessly towards a fitting finale of ‘Small of My Heart’ and ‘Cindy Cindy’.
2013 was the year of missed opportunities to see the band live in the UK and also one where they released an excellent live album titled COME AS YOU ARE: LIVE which captured the band’s ascendancy following the release of 2009’s NO FOOL FOR TRYING. The success and acclaim that headed in the direction of Brenley and Lisa was no more than they deserved after starting out in Toronto just prior to the millennium switchover. Segments of this evening’s show reflected fondly on those early days with the track ‘Haight Ashbury’ representing that recording period for Madison Violet and being preluded by their love for San Francisco. Perhaps nostalgia has skewed the misty thoughts of Toronto’s Green Room back then.
This two set show was housed in the venue’s studio room and the intimate gathering created the ideal ambience for the beautiful songs to flourish. These songs tended to fall into two camps; the old favourites and the entire playing of the duo’s new album THE KNIGHT SESSIONS. This record sees them fall back into a folk state of mind to the extent that half a dozen songs from their interim pop album THE YEAR OF THE HORSE have been re-worked in an acoustic format. It has to be admitted that this record must have passed me by or more than likely marketed in an alternative direction.
The lead single from that project, in this renewed format, was among the pick of the newish songs with ‘These Ships’ getting the pre-encore slot on the set list. Another song from the new album ‘Same Sun’ also nestled into the memory bank, likely on the back of Lisa’s heartfelt story of a communication between her mother and late brother. This was one of many anecdotal interludes by both ladies as they reached out to bond with an audience, of whom many were familiar with the older songs but were a little starved of chances to hear them live.
Closely pushing the two encore tracks mentioned in the introduction, other seasoned favourites were savoured such as ‘No Fool for Trying’, the wonderfully melodic ‘Crying’, the invited singalong ‘Come as You Are’ and the competition winning ‘The Ransom’. Whilst these numbers represent probably Madison Violet’s most influential recording period, there is still the optimism that many fruitful years lie ahead. The song writing skills are still smart and acute, aligned with a harmonious slice of vocal nirvana and the pair being no mean artisans when it comes to stringed instrumentation playing.
Lisa extols the diversity in the musician stakes, exercising her skills on both electric and acoustic guitar, fiddle and mandolin. She played most of the significant musical segments leaving Brenley to support from the moments flitting between six-string and four string acoustic guitars coupled with occasional harmonica. In fact the four-string had a worn exterior suggesting many musical miles, endless adventures and the delightful custodian of many self-generating songs. In fact Madison Violet are a self-fulfilling entity of original songs, leaving room for only one cover this evening and a version of Beyoncé’s ‘Daddy Lessons’; a song turning more than a few heads in folk and Americana circles.
This successful show was the second of the duo’s extensive ‘The Back to the Roots Tour’ which extends to over forty dates across the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. On the evidence of the live album released a couple of years ago, the reception the band will get in Germany is likely to be special. This theory is rubber stamped by finally getting the opportunity to see the live performing skills of Lisa and Brenley at close quarters. Madison Violet remains one of my favourite Canadian folk and roots bands alongside the Good Lovelies, Wailin’ Jennies, Po Girl and the Be Good Tanyas. The good news is that they are sounding sweet in 2016 and set to reign long into the future.