The beautiful seated intimate surroundings of The Wonder Inn provided the perfect setting for Julie Byrne's Manchester show in support of her recent Not Even Happiness album.
It's a hushed and reverent atmosphere in the dimly lit upstairs room of one of Manchester's best kept secrets. Whilst downstairs a vegan pop up food event accompanied by African rhythms is in full swing, the sold out audience above them is hushed as Julie makes her way to the stage and opens with a delicate Sleepwalker. This environment is perfect for every little nuance in Julie's guitar playing and the rich nature and expressive depth of her voice that makes Not Even Happiness one of the underground albums of the year.
Throughout the set she plays unaccompanied but also with a handheld keyboard and, on a soaring uplifting Natural Blue, violin and takes time out to tell us the story behind the songs and how they fit into her life story. What strikes us most is the simple emotional expression of the songs though, performed here with the sort of intensity that sets the hairs on the back of the neck up on end. The low lighting, with twenty two candles lit at the front of the stage in memory of those who died a few hundred metres away a few nights earlier, makes the environment even more all-consuming.
As she finishes with one of her earlier tracks Marmalade and one final emotional outpouring of "a prayer" I Live Now As A Singer, we're left feeling that we've been through some form of spiritual cleansing in musical form. Julie Byrne isn't about show or grand gestures, but creates something even more powerful through the subtlety of her art and the emotional dexterity in her voice.
Julie Byrne's official website can be found here. She returns to Manchester to play Band On The Wall on November 12th.
Follow Even The Stars on Twitter at @eventhestarsuk and like our Facebook page for all the latest updates