Every so often an artist needs to freshen up their live show to keep an audience engaged. For well over ten years Eve Selis has been touring the UK on an almost annual basis both with a full band and as a duo with long term musical partner Marc ‘Twang’ Intravaia. However for the 2014 tour including this evening’s show at the legendary Tingewick Village Hall, it’s a case of ‘California Dreaming’ or to be more specific ‘San Diego Singing’.
To headline this gig on a sultry evening in the Buckinghamshire countryside, more akin to the Golden State, Eve morphed in Berkley, Hart, Selis and Twang to deliver a 75 minute set of glorious two, three and four part harmonies decorating a plethora of catchy tunes echoing the golden age of west coast music. For once the effervescent Eve happily settled into a co-starring role alongside Calman Hart, Jeff Berkley and of course Marc serving up his usual finger pickin’ treat. The occasion was to celebrate the release of the quartet’s new self-titled record and promote a load of original songs possessing that familiar instant appeal.
For a show introduced as one with a plan, the symmetrical and alphabetically ordered foursome was flanked by Jeff and Marc’s acoustic accompaniment which at one point took centre stage in a classic guitar duel, similarly to what Marc conjures up with fellow band member Cactus Jim. Calman and Eve primarily controlled the vocals to near identical proportion as they surfed through a batch of crowd pleasing new songs best reflected in ‘California Mountain Home’, ‘Tomorrow on My Mind’, ‘Long Road Back to Love’ and a rousing country flavoured sing along ‘Let’s Go Out Drinking’.
The evening was crowned by a trio of diverse covers that perfectly represented the mood of the evening and covered a variety of bases from the roots genre. Jeff introduced the San Diego origins of the Jack Tempest penned classic ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’, Calman oozed with class tackling James Taylor’s ‘Steam Roller Blues’ and Eve relived her own connection with the folk tradition of our shores by leading the rendition of ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’. This set came right out of the blue to many Eve Selis regulars but from the sound of the applause there was a room full of impressed plaudits.
However for traditional fans of Eve and Marc, there was a middle 40 minute set by the duo recounting a selection of their favourite tunes over the years. Although a little impeded by being in the final stages of recuperating from a roller blade accident, Eve soared through ‘Angels and Eagles’, the now very appropriate ‘Bump in the Road’ and the popular live number ‘Any Day’. Her version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ has become a recent staple of the live set while Calman was invited on stage to duet on the excellent waltz number ‘Family Tree’ and title track from the most recent full Eve Selis album. Eve has also been busy making a record with her colleague Kim McLean under the Cactus Honey banner and introduced ‘A Little Bit of Heaven’ from this release.
Jeff and Calman, just like twelve months ago, were granted a support slot to present a bunch of songs from their lengthy career as the Berkley Hart duo. Primarily Jeff plays guitar and Calman provides the vocals and harmonica but this can be interchangeable and ‘Austin Girl’ and ‘My Name is Sam’ were probably the two most striking songs from their 20 minute opening set. At this point it is worth complimenting Mike Trotman and the Empty Rooms Promotion team for putting on another well attended gig at a location that epitomises the quintessential English village hall. This was my first visit to the venue and made all the more memorable by the show put on by Berkley, Hart, Selis and Twang.
If as expected Eve reverts back to her duo and band work, and Berkley Hart continue the plough on in a similar vein, it was a privilege to be present when they came together for a special night to celebrate a style so reminiscent of their home state. If the intention was for Eve to freshen up her live presence in the UK, then Berkley, Hart, Selis and Twang hit the target with excellent precision.