Eliza Carthy Band: Sheffield Cathedral

I enter, whispering as though not to interrupt Sunday Mass. Surely this can’t be right, a gig in a Cathedral? Not that I’m complaining, and not that I’m particularly religious, but this place was built to carry music to the heavens.

Shuffling onto a pew, I manage to catch talented siblings, Marry Waterson and Oliver Knight. The amazing acoustics in here mean that Marry’s high notes echo beautifully. ‘Windy Day’ is relaxed with gentle piano whereas ‘Secret Smile’ is somehow darker with gentle guitar and harmonising vocals.

From the moment Eliza opens her mouth, I cannot move. Eliza is so captivating, you feel glued to your seat. Just as she sings of making a ‘big man cry’, similarly, her voice is strong, full bodied yet soft. The accordion gives this a sea shanty quality, whilst the acapella harmonising between Eliza,Bethany(cello), and Emma (double bass) is so tight, you would swear it is a recording. She polishes this off by saying, ‘That was about miserable people inWhitby.’ And so she continues with a song about another miserable sod. ‘Hansel (Breadcrumbs)’ lives up to the familiar fairytale, the twist being, Hansel has forgotten to pack his sandwiches. Whilst songs like ‘Hansel’ entertain, others such as one describing tears falling ‘on each side’ of her face are sang with sincere sadness, accompanied by Eliza’s melancholy violin.

‘Blood on My Boots’ however was somewhere in between. Told like a modern day tale of woe, a lot of Eliza’s songs are tragic-comedies. Not only is Eliza musically talented, she has a very warm, very northern sense of humour as well. Her synopsis being, ‘It has good moral themes. It was a good night, up to a point.’ Well we’ve all had one of those nights, maybe not as glamorous as stealing champagne at the Jerry Springer Musical after party in theWest Endbut I’m sure we would do the same. This is the way folk should be, interesting musical stories with modern twists. As Eliza’s electric guitar and Phil Alexander’s jaunty piano add a rebellious element to the song, I wonder if this counts as blasphemy.

Eliza should not be pigeon-holed to folk. Her music is relevant to every genre and everyone, from the Ska-like, pop rock of ‘Monkey’ to the up beat, clap-a-long fun of ‘War’ to which a man in a suit and Mr Magoo hat started to dance. ‘Mr Magnifico’ was another story based song, this time narrated by drummer Willy Molleson whose Scottish accent works well with French accordion verse, swinging into more Celtic choruses. The band finishes with ‘Britainis a Car park’ or ‘What would happen if we all moved toSpain.’ The answer being, we would have everything with chips which Eliza vocalises in Spanish. Again, this song opens with beautiful harmonising. Every member of Eliza’s band is impressively talented and professional. After the encore, the band takes a bow, greeted with much deserved applause.

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