Star rating - 9/10
Takk is usually a lovely new coffee bar in the Northern Quarter, but it was transformed into the atmospheric setting for an intimate evening of acoustic delights in the shape of a one off gem (or 'two off' if you count the previous evening's identical outing in Chorlton's Jackalope bar) of a Hey! Manchester promoted gig. A small and very lucky audience were treated to duets from Manchester's own Jo Rose and Klara Söderberg, more usually known as half of Swedish band First Aid Kit; supported by the ever wonderful Canadian troubadour Gabriel Minnikin.
Gabriel was playing alongside regular pedal steel/dobro playing assistant Chris Hillman, with vocal support on some tracks from his friend Louise. Chris is surely one of the better exports that Stoke on Trent has achieved (excepting pottery and Lemmy from Motorhead of course), and his wonderful sounds richly complemented the beautiful songs that they performed. But then I am a sucker for a nice bit of pedal steel... This may be one of the last chances we get to see them play together for a while. Chris is off to tour the world as part of Billy Bragg's band, and Gabriel is heading home to Nova Scotia after basing himself in Manchester for the last 9 years.
The set contained my favourite two tracks from his latest, locally recorded album Parakeets with Parasols, which are the beautiful and soulfully sad Arkansas, and the reminder of a hometown friend Halifax Blues. Blackwater Sky is a relationship confessional number from his second 2007 album, Wandering Midnight. And as well as his own lovely songs he does a good line in covers - Steve Earle's I'm Still In Love With You , and the Cox Family bluegrass favourite I Am Weary Let Me Rest. There were some lovely as yet unrecorded numbers in the shape of the wistful Birthday Card Eyes, and Blood Pedals - hopefully they will show up on a record some time soon. In truth it didn't feel so much like a support act, as the first act of the evening's entertainment, and the other musicians and friends joined multi instrumentalist Gabriel for some of his numbers, and he returned the favour later on in the night.
Following this evocative set, temporary duo Jo Rose and Klara Söderberg took the stage (or corner of the coffee bar to be precise), and their voices really do wrap around each other's beautifully, like all the best vocal pairings. They sang some favourite, gentler First Aid Kit numbers; This Old Routine and Heavy Storm, which were given a lovely stripped down feel. And also covers of some Leonard Cohen and Steve Earle songs - So Long Marianne, and Fort Worth Blues. Klara treated us to one of her new songs, Master Pretender, which sounded great. Her strong and clear voice really resonated in the small space.
For the whole evening there was almost a feeling of being in someone's home listening to them singing without microphones and with a lot of warmth. The whole group of performers got together, this time with the gorgeous sound of Minnikin's mandolin, for the last few tracks, including Hickory Wind, in a tribute to the great Gram Parsons, and Will the Circle Be Unbroken. It really felt special and was a great privilege to be a small part of. Congratulations to Hey! Manchester for sourcing such a great venue and for getting together the brilliant ensemble. More please...
(And your very last chance to catch Gabriel Minnikin before he departs for home is on Sunday 10th March at The Kings Arms in Salford as part of the Lonesome and Penniless Cowboys gig: http://kingsarmssalford.com/index.php?id=9#03/10/2013)