On the subject of sharing, there was a collaborative feel to this evening’s show, running a thread through both sets and an audience keen to engage throughout. This was an audience swelled by the presence of local musician Danielle Cawdell who grabbed every moment of a precious opening slot to show how the medium of thoughtful song adorned with an ideal piano accompaniment can flourish. This was especially apt in an environment often more frequented by the acoustic guitar.
Although the sets were bound by the urge to express oneself through the holy grail of the original song plus an assembled trio format, artistic contrasts were on explicit display starting from the moment the stage area was re-adjusted during the break. Stand-up bass replaced piano on the instrument front as the focal point switched from a performer on the rise to one coveted with a seasoned stature. Maybe the overseas tours haven’t been too frequent, but Annie Keating has been recording albums for well over a decade with the 2008 release BELMONT initially catching my ear. This was the first opportunity to assess her from a live perspective and an hour-long spell in the spotlight revealed an inventive and industrious artist using an energetic persona to open the songbook of her spirit.
For this tour, Annie has teamed up with English bassist Scott Warman (a regular Porchlight Smoker and more recently, a driving influence in The Long Haul) and fellow New Yorker Steve Mayone (seamlessly switching between acoustic, electric and mandolin). Indeed the latter’s presence played a significant upfront role in dictating the pace of the set, whether enhancing the rock ‘n’ roll tempo for songs like ‘On the Loose’ or taking the sound in a more roots direction through the delicate twang from the mandolin. Perhaps if you were seeking an extension to the evening, a song or two from Steve’s new album SIDEWAYS RAIN could have aided its promotion without overshadowing the momentum of Annie.
One of Steve’s older songs did make an entry as the first part of a double encore with ‘Deeper in the Well’ leading the trio back on stage. This was followed by Annie closing a thoroughly entertaining evening by not only celebrating the work of John Prine through his classic cut ‘Angel From Montgomery’, but conducting a communal response to a chorus deeply rooted in the contemporary American songbook. In fact Annie had long tapped into the enthusiasm generated from Danielle’s set, with her own communal crowd pleaser ‘You Bring the Sun’ needing little encouragement for participation.
Among an ever-increasing posse of American touring artists spanning that vast country, there is always a place for the hardened urban North East singer-songwriter. From the Boston suburbs of her upbringing which provided the backdrop to the inspiration for the title track off her most recent album ‘Trick Star’ to the nostalgic tones of her tribute to Brooklyn’s iconic seaside haven ‘Coney Island’, this was a songwriter heavily influenced by her surroundings and not on this occasion the proverbial open road or the luscious soulful soil of the south. Annie is perfectly in tune with marrying the port of her influence with a distinctive style, while engaging with many creative facets to bring the sum of her gifts to an awaiting audience. From the opening track ‘Lucky’, through other popular numbers such as the pumped up ‘Storm Warning’, the ode to romance ‘Valentine’ and the impressive ‘Sunny Dirt Road’ to the right up to date ‘Trouble’, there was ample evidence to unlock the door and reveal what makes Annie Keating tick as an artist.
On an evening rich in the warmth of mutual appreciation, the triangle of support act, main attraction and audience thrived on the rich pickings of the environment. Danielle Cawdell will no doubt continue her schooling on the live local music scene, further assisted by her mentor and guitar playing accomplice for the evening Birmingham’s own popular singer-songwriter Dan Whitehouse. On the other hand, Annie will continue to ply the trail of the touring artist,taking a little bit of Brooklyn to whichever town she stops off at, including probably the centrepiece of this year’s UK visit, a couple of sets at the upcoming Maverick Festival.