Thursday, 17 May 2018

GIG REVIEW: Mary Gauthier - Glee Club, Nottingham. Wednesday 16th May 2018

In her evolving seasonal classic ‘Christmas in Paradise’, Mary Gauthier drew on the concept of not judging the afflicted, just dealing with the here and now. This philosophy extends to her involvement in the Song Writing with Soldiers project, which is the theme of her new album and centrepiece of a current tour of the UK. This record has been in circulation since the turn of the year, but the presentation of its ethos, emotion and heart-wrenching content in a hushed room dismantles any prefaced assimilation of what it means to all concerned. This Nottingham Glee Club show may have included a mix of old favourites; the introduction of a virtuoso violin/viola accompaniment by Italian musician Michele Gazich and the most inclusive of uplifting finales, but casting a defining shadow across the night were five compulsive stories and the songs born from each painful situation.

Any Mary Gauthier show brims with idiosyncratic and quirky tendencies that lure the audience into a state of total admiration. Hanging onto each number and story takes you into the perceptive world of an artist enriched by the salvation of song. These traits never fail to materialise when she comes to town and fully embedded into versions of ‘Mercy Now’, ‘Last of the Hobo Kings’ and ‘Another Train’. There was a strong case that these much-loved songs were probably eclipsed in the back catalogue segment of the show by the deep-rooted calling song ‘Oh Soul’. This judgement may be clouded by listening to the same song just twenty-four hours earlier when impassionedly sung by Ben Glover, Mary’s co-writer on the song.

Before returning to the crux of the evening, it is imperative to mention the finale choice of ‘This Land is Your Land’. This version slipped it into the sad song territory of its origins and one that required little persuasion for the audience to vociferously tap into its spirit and inclusive meaning.

The domination of song writing with soldiers may have originally cast a dark shadow of war’s untold stories across a locked-in audience, but rays of light periodically burst through as the therapy of song took hold. ‘Rifles and Rosary Beads’, ‘Bullet Holes in the Sky’, ‘Still on the Ride’, ‘Stronger Together’ and ‘It’s Her Love’ had their soul ripped apart in the introduction, before each song began the healing process. Tales of trauma, pain, suicide, despair and regret ravaged the room, requiring a steely demeanour not to be moved. War was abhorred, politicians slammed and judgement withheld, alongside an intuitive insight in how song can unpick the past and lay a foundation of hope. Time froze throughout the period Mary shared her experience of participating in this process. The gig may have lasted around an hour and forty minutes, but this segment eroded any concept of time.

There was always the background conundrum of an avid anti-war protestor choosing the plight of the veteran to activate the song writing process when many other facets of untold stories are yearning for a voice. Regardless of circumstance, Mary was visibly touched by immersing herself into this project and a contagious wave of empathy swamped a room of willing accomplices. This powerful piece of singer-songwriter theatre proved all-consuming and unleashed the infinite potential of where song can take you. The fervent anti-war protestor, and thorn in the side of the perpetrators, still exists alongside a purveyor of focussing on the humanist angle of a tragic state of affairs.

Listen to RIFLE AND ROSARY BEADS, read all the background stuff and most of all if Mary Gauthier passes through your town join the congregation. Third party words barely scratch the surface. Replicating the experience of exposure to an articulate advocate and exceptional songwriter really only appeases the author. Memories are made at a Mary Gauthier show; perceptions are formed and definitive evenings of entering the world of the deep connective singer-songwriter leave that most satisfying of mark.

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