THIS wildly popular Acomb café proved the perfect setting for Steve Gunn and Brigid Mae Power to kick off a tour as part of Bluebird Bakery’s rapidly expanding Rise programme of evening concerts.
The intimate surroundings put everyone at ease, the abstract art by York artist Rosie Bramley providing the ideal backdrop for the performers to slowly weave their magic.
Steve Gunn is one of the most talented acoustic guitar players (as well as a serial collaborator and producer), so it is credit to Joe Coates at Please Please You for enticing the New Yorker to Acomb.
With jetlag tapping Gunn on the shoulder (as he put it), it took a while for him to work his way into his set. By dexterously employing delay and effects, Gunn was able to inject variation and other sound dimensions into otherwise attractive acoustic compositions. At one point during Way Out Weather he risked tinnitus for us, by crouching right down to his speaker to get the (challenging) sound he was seeking before bringing us back to the safety of the original refrain.
Gunn’s approach is subtle, songs take time to perform, and, in truth, time to work their charm on the audience. On The Way and Morning River, both from his 2021 solo album Other You, occupied the first 25 minutes of the set. More memorable was Wildwood, a number about a place on the New Jersey coast that holds a special connection to him and his family.
Gunn is touring with Brigid Mae Power in support. This Irish singer is justly a critical favourite, known for her heartfelt songs and beautiful voice. “Singing around a cough”, she spluttered while tuning, but she still sounded in fine voice.
Without the imaginative studio backings, Power’s material seems simply constructed and varies little. At their best, however, they are heart stopping, emotive fragments seemingly ripped from a diary. Some Life You’ve Known was wonderful and perhaps the best song of the entire evening.
Running it close was Gunn’s cover of the late Michael Chapman’s Among The Trees. Chapman wrote this elegiac number before he was 30, and the melancholy for summer’s past was more universal than Gunn’s pieces. It was nevertheless a treat to see two talented performers up close and be able to hear and appreciate every note.
Review by Paul Rhodes, 1/11/2023
N.B. A launch Party for A Yorkshire Tribute To Michael Chapman, a compilation album curated by Henry Parker for release on the Tompkins Square label, will take place is at The Crescent on Friday, December 1. Taking part will be Andrew DR Abbott, Chris Brain, Holly Blackshaw, Bobby Lee, Dean McPhee, Henry Parker and Katie Spencer. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.