Review: Gemma Hayes @ The Globe
The Globe, Cardiff
Thursday 14th May 2015
Irish singer-songwriter Gemma Hayes has always been one to keep an eye on.
Her chilled acoustic ballads of lost loves and past fights have grown in composition throughout her 13 year career and her latest offering, 2014's Bones + Longing takes a big step sonically as it is drenched in dynamics and reverb.
She is currently touring with her new album and backing band on a nine date tour starting at Cardiff's The Globe.
The venue is a wonderfully lit setting for her music. The dense forest of instruments on stage suggest the level musicianship on offer will allow the intimacy of her music to be explored and keep the audience interested in the changing flavours of sound. Before Gemma takes the stage we are introduced to her supporting act, Mary Spender, who delivers a cool rhythmic bluesy swing to her songs of personal change, delivered with a heavy heart and voice. She makes clever use of a loop pedal to build her songs and also allows her to add some guitar spice to the rhythm. She takes us through each song before she plays so we are already feeling closer to the music, a good start to the evening. One girl and a guitar, a whole lot of blues.
When Gemma Hayes and her band take the stage they go straight into their first song Dreamt You Were Fine taken from her new album. The heavy echoey sound of the album is replaced with sparkly acoustic guitars and sweet harmonies. There is a level of electronica to build on the ethereal swells present in her new music and when combined with the acoustic-driven rhythm the live sound is quite different to the album, a much beatier and earthier tone. There's a sense of pleasure as she sings her new songs, especially new single Palomino, which is delivered with a smile and a stomping rhythm.
The set is a decent half-and-half mix of new album and older songs, and each song is played with different instruments as the guitarist swaps six strings for four with a ukulele, then eight with a mandolin, and the bass goes vertical into a double and different guitars are used by Gemma. A few minor technical hitches cannot dissuade her enjoyment of the performance and she keeps the audience attentive with warmth and humour, recalling stories that developed into her songs. This bodes well for the rest of the tour as she comes across as a natural performer.
The songs heave between delicate acoustics and danceable stomps as the set sways through her catalogue with happiness. It starts to get louder and groovier as the set culminates with the encore, and the music stays in the air afterwards. There is a real sense of enjoyment from the band as they perform the songs for the first time together live and Gemma is instantly relaxed and her voice is on form for the first show of the tour. The instruments take centre stage throughout the set with the clever blending of traditional acoustics and atmospheric electronica, and the vocal harmonies help construct a larger sonic landscape for the live shows. The music is a tasty mix of balladry and big beats twirling around an ethereal cloud of harmonies and sweeping electronica, perfect for the venue and definitely worth catching on stage.
Gemma Hayes is witty, warm and talented, and her music becomes something more exciting when seen live, so even though the crowd wasn't as big as expected there was almost definitely a feeling of connection as the performance ended. If you dig cool performances and strong songwriting, this is the one to see.
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