Yarbo, Laura James, Will Darbyshire: The Riverside, Sheffield

Once upon a time at The Riverside, Christmas was approaching fast and the cosy living room atmosphere was complemented by the charitable hearts of the punters… Now you are sitting comfortably I can begin. Tonight’s event is a folky fund raiser for the Long Well Walk, a charity who are working towards providing clean, drinkable water for African communities. More specifically, the money from tonight goes towards, ‘The Long Walk’, an amazing challenge and major understatement. In 2014, Sheffield charity worker, Liam Garcia, will be walking (that’s right, walking), to Africa, a challenge that deserves as much money and support as we are willing to give at this very giving time of year. So Scrooges, no buts or humbugs, ya hear?

Will Darbyshire takes to the living room style stage, complete with a fireplace and twinkling Christmas tree in the corner. The gentle, acoustic music floats nicely through the air on this midweek evening. As Will opens with, ‘Wise Men’, I realise how minimal the set is. Without the aid of a monitor, the performance appears far more natural owing to the simple microphone and guitar set-up. Lyrically, his songs are small glimpses into the heart, accompanied by equally tender strums of guitar. ‘Older’ is quirkier and folkier, with it’s Waterboys vibe.

Laura James is a seemingly shy, yet enchanting artist, armed with bigger speakers as well as an acoustic guitar. Accompanied by Carmen on the harp, the two girls manage to hold the attention of the whole room, hushing the audience’s chatter to a distant murmur. It’s no wonder. Her vocals fluctuate from warm and soft one moment, to high and spine tingling the next. This must be why songs such as, ‘Crocodile Tears’ are so hypnotically melancholy. And although ‘Blue Bells’ is a happier song about falling in love in Cumbria, I find myself more taken with the beautifully melodic, ‘O’ River’ which is made far more emotive with light touches of the harp. As Laura’s set comes to a close, it’s easy to see that the clusters of crowds are hungry for an encore.

After many fund raising thanks from the organiser followed by a speech from ‘long walker’ Liam, the final act, Yarbo takes to the stage. The audience’s hunger is fed as Yarbo’s quirky, male vocals are united with those of Laura James’ on keyboard. ‘Devil And A Dark Place’ stands out with its catchy chorus and beautiful harmonies. Despite a couple of sound-man mishaps, I cannot fault Yarbo’s playing or recordable vocals. And like Laura’s set, it’s not the reassuring, ‘Symphony For The Lost And Lonely’ that hits the deepest, but the emotional uncertainty of songs such as ‘Phantasmagoria’. And just like a Cinderella story, it’s already midnight and way past closing time. If Laura’s performance alone was enchanting, the magic which her and Yarbo weave together is enough to pull you head over heels.

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