Saturday, 4 February 2017

Amanda Rheaume - St.George's Hall, Bewdley. Friday 3rd February 2017

Canadian artist Amanda Rheaume was in a buoyant mood as she played the penultimate date of her current UK tour at a packed St. George’s Hall in Bewdley. The aptly named Severn Sessions is fast putting this North Worcestershire riverside town on the music map for touring artists of a country and roots persuasion. Amanda was the latest invitee and determined to ensure the locals had a memorable evening, with her vibrant style of music straddling the country-folk-pop point of genre convergence. The turnout is beginning to attract out of towners as well, as word gets around that artists of Amanda’s level of accomplishment continue to raise spirits on this monthly Friday evening gathering.

For this latest leg of Amanda’s European excursions, a trio format is in tow with Anders Drerup (electric guitar/pedal steel guitar) and Anna Ruddick (bass) providing a valuable role in ensuring the recorded material gets the best possible live treatment. Songs stretching back across her three studio albums formed the set list accompanied by a couple of distinguished covers sharing the breadth of Amanda’s undoubted influences.

The success of the evening revolved around the strength of the songs and the precision execution which saw Anders playing-expertise showering a radiant glow on Amanda’s bold mission of sharing her music. Straight from the opening bars of ‘Get to the Part’ from the latest album HOLDING PATTERNS, a soaring standard of engaging professionalism was displayed and refused to yield until the closing cover of Stevie Nicks’ ‘Landslide’ was concluded. Whilst in more recent times Natalie Maines has put her own stamp on this song, Amanda’s version, with the able vocal assistance of Anna, ensured every inch of its elegance was intact.

The current sound of Amanda is more focussed on the country pop tinge with the pedal steel proving an addition to the last time she was witnessed live. This was on the very first UK tour back in 2014 when her previous album KEEP A FIRE was heavily featured in the set. Songs from that release were kept to a minimum this time, but it was an absolute pleasure to hear a personal favourite in ‘Passed Down the Line’ make the cut. Going back even further in time, ‘Better Days Ahead’ from the 2011 album LIGHT OF ANOTHER DAY proved to be one of the show’s  livelier numbers, aided and abetted by audience participation which needed little Friday evening encouragement.

As earlier mentioned, Amanda has a recent album to feed a majority of the set list from and the band did a sterling job in ensuring they had a substantial airing. Amanda was in her usual communicative mood to ensure the audience were well informed with many song inspirations. By the end of the evening songs from the record such as ‘Red Dress’, ‘The Day the Mountain Fell’, and ‘Dead Horse’ left much more of an impression than just a fine tune.

As with an ever increasing bunch of fellow Canadian artists of a similar ilk, Amanda’s prime strength lies within her song writing capabilities and perhaps the subliminal message from covering the John Prine classic ‘Angel From Montgomery’ is that she is prepared to learn from the best. Of course an effervescent stage persona helps communicate the music which is maybe a more vital component when taking original music into community settings. Regardless of Amanda’s considerable strengths, the rapturous reception given at the end sealed the approval and demonstrated a good time was had by all.

Aligned with the community nature of this Severn Sessions series of shows, a youth act in the guise of local school girls, Grace Winterburn and Abby Foxall under the name Melody Blue and rock blues trio, the Mark Leedham Band, provided the support for Amanda. This continues to ensure that enhanced focus remains on the Bewdley music scene and goes a long way to help establish a viable structure for artists such as Amanda Rheaume to successfully play their music thousands of miles from home.

Over the last few years, Amanda has put in a considerable amount of leg work in realising an ambition of making her career a success overseas. Having first come across her music at the outset of this adventure, it is refreshing to see a thriving performer. Canadian artists like Amanda Rheaume have a valuable role in exporting their art to broaden the horizon of music lovers around the world. Few folks in Bewdley would disagree after witnessing this performance.

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