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Friday, 19 November 2010

Gigs - Mary Gauthier - Manchester Academy

Star rating – 8/10

I have to be honest - I expected this Mary Gauthier gig to be a dour, bitter and turgid affair. How wrong can you be? Wearing your heart on your sleeve is an expression tailor made for this artist. And the paradox is true, as she observes in one of her asides to the audience, that sad songs really do make you feel better.

Gauthier shines as an honest, open, and heart rending song writer. The beautiful songs are brought wonderfully to life by her accompanist, the violinist Tanya Elizabeth, and the connection between the two performers on stage is a warm and generous one.

She is no spring chicken, but uses all the experiences of her life to brilliant effect in her songs. Painful experiences like being abandoned by her mother as a baby and being adopted, are articulated just as much as a one off experience of connecting with some homeless people under a bridge one Christmas Day.

She has a lovely soulful voice, and her songs show what a lovely, open and humble person she must be. The small venue gives an intimate feel to the evening, and Gauthier uses humour to make light of what must be immensely difficult memories, such as ‘I Drink’ about her battle with alcohol. I have often thought that my enjoyment of a live concert is directly proportionate to the number of songs I know and love beforehand – but tonight I knew none of the songs, and that mattered not one iota.

To be sure, we are now benefitting from obvious pain in her past, but she is also a warm , humorous woman, and a very talented songwriter, such as in her award winning song ‘Drag Queens in Limousines’ – played as a welcome encore. If you like your music on the country side and you embrace raw, honest emotions, then you could do a lot worse than catching a bit of Mary Gauthier. A wonderful, life affirming evening.

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