Friday 30 May 2014

Ren Harvieu / Bird To Beast - Hebden Bridge Trades Club 29th May 2014

It's been a long time since Ren Harvieu's last solo show.   We went along to her low-key comeback show at Hebden Bridge Trades Club and were treated to one of the finest voices in modern music as well as a treat in the shape of the delightful Bird To Beast.

I must admit the first time I saw Bird To Beast I was fairly underwhelmed.  Since then, they've appeared on a number of bills around Manchester and slowly, but surely, they've turned round my opinion.  Now they're exciting, vibrant and utterly disarmingly charming with a set of beautiful songs from their fantastic recent debut self-titled album.

Tonight's set is just Sam and Hannah Hird, a married couple, blessed with a pair of outstanding voices.  With songs like Tides, Catacombs and Elephant, they have some of the most catchy, singalong takes on folk I've heard.  They alternate vocals and provide harmonies for each other, whilst Sam plays guitar or keyboards and Hannah percussion.  What they also show is that they can produce fabulously tender emotional songs such as Posture and Pantomine and Winter Song.

There's more to them than their music.  Sam completely disarms the audience by telling them he'd just eaten a big tea and would rather be sat down than singing and joked about moving to Hebden and Daniel, subject matter of the final song, playing on the playstation rather than coming to the gig.

It's rare for a band to turn my opinion of them round so completely.  Have a listen to them and fall in love with them.

It's two and a half years since Ren's debut album Through The Night and this is her first headline show for quite a long time so she's understandably nervous, albeit with far more confidence than her early shows when she was recovering from a serious back injury.  As the set progresses, she noticeably becomes more confident, using her Salford charm to great effect with the audience, joking that the band are all Northern and asking whether her outfit looks like Adam Ant.

The crowd doesn't really need any winning over though once she starts to sing.  That incredible voice that drew people in is still there and has become more rich and redolent with age and it's hard to believe she's still only 23 as she evokes memories of established Motown and soul legends almost effortlessly.

The set ranges from songs from her debut and then a number of covers, including Feist's Train Song, Joni Mitchell's A Case Of You, Fleetwood Mac's Landslide, Roy Orbison's Crying and an encore of Blondie's Rapture to complete the 50 minute set.  Sadly there's nothing from her forthcoming second album that she's in the middle of recording so we're not privy to the new sound she's hinted at on Twitter.  This doesn't stop us being captivated by every note she sings.

Those songs from her debut that made us fall in love with her voice - particularly Through The Night, Walking In The Rain, Forever In Blue and set-closer Open Up Your Arms - all still sound as uplifting as ever, beefed up by guitar, bass, drums and a keyboard player / cellist who create the framework around which Ren's haunting melodies twist their way.

Ren's still one of the most distinctive, unique vocalists we have.  Tonight's gig is a confirmation of that though it tells us nothing about the future, but that's for another day.  She's back and we should be thankful for that.

Ren played Train Song, Through The Night, Do Right By Me, Walking In The Rain, A Case Of You, Summer Romance, Landslide, Love Is A Melody, Holding On, Crying, Open Up Your Arms, Rapture

Bird To Beast's debut album is out now.  They can be found here and also are on Facebook and Twitter.

Ren's website can be found here and she is also on Facebook and Twitter.  She plays Swinton Town Hall lawns tomorrow night (31st May).

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