Wednesday, 19 December 2018

GIG REVIEW: O'Hooley and Tidow - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Tuesday 18th December 2018

One thing that the 2018 gig year possessed was symmetry. The same venue hosted the first and last show with the artists themselves supplying a family flavour. From Robin, Joe and Katy Bennett (occasionally known as the Bennett Family Singers) to O’Hooley and Tidow, the Kitchen Garden presented many fine musical performances over the last twelve months. So as the curtain finally came down on an eventful year, it was a show of warmth, humour and familiarity that provided the finale, and a splendid evening of quintessential English folk music in its most engaging form.

Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow are a successful and popular duo on the folk circuit, accruing multi-layers of acclaim, whilst rarely failing to entertain an audience. The vocal blend, honing in on individual skills and possessing a keen ear to the borrowed and self-composed song has fermented their stage presence to the extent of adapting to a variety of live formats. This evening’s setting in the intimate surroundings of Kings Heath’s premier listening venue fell into the duo’s lap, though they did provide their own sound set up that gave the sonic environment a richer texture.

This latest run of O’Hooley and Tidow dates is billed as their Winterfolk Tour, aligned to the album of the same name released last year. Thus a seasonal theme threaded through the brace of sets that the pair played to a near full house.

Despite festive tracks like the familiar ‘River’ and ‘Fairytale of New York’ to close the evening (both standards given a personal twist) and picks off their WINTERFOLK , VOL 1 record such as ‘One More Xmas’ (possibly the song of the night) and ‘The Last Polar Bear’, the soundtrack forayed into many other subjects that have inspired the duo’s song choice.

Therefore jolly singalongs in ‘Gentleman Jack’ (based on the infamous 19th century diarist Anne Lister) and ‘Summat’s Brewin’ (celebrating the triumph of the small in a real ale context) kept the tempo up as the pair switched between piano, accordion, guitar and both, on and off mic. Throw in an instrumental piano solo from Belinda and a poetry reading from Heidi, and you can increasingly visualise the artistic diversity that flowed.

When seeking the most moving moment of the show, you needed to look no further than ‘Whitethorn’, with its homage to Ireland’s lost rural children, blending into Heidi’s German version of ‘Stille Nacht’, followed by an opportunity for us all to join in on the English translation. Wonderful music theatre.

Outside of these main points, many concurred with Heidi’s political outpouring on food banks, austerity and LGBT rights We were all a little more informed of the duo’s proud Huddersfield heritage (or at least present home). Other songs to grace this stirring evening were versions of Richard Thompson’s ‘We Sing Hallelujah’ and Louden Wainwright III’s ‘White Winos’ , along with other O’Hooley and Tidow recorded songs like ‘Fire and Wine’, ‘Wexford Lullaby’ and ‘Little Boy Blue’.

At the end of a year where so much music has been explored from countries like Canada, America, Sweden and Australia to name a few, it is sometimes warm and reassuring to savour some home comforts as we head into a few weeks break from the live music circuit. Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow gracefully saw the year out and will be more than welcome again to share their engaging and rather splendid take on the wide and eclectic world of folk music. 


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