By Poppy Tohill
Date / Venue: Saturday October 18th, The Tuning Fork, Auckland
There is something truly captivating and striking about Lyttleton folk star Aldous Harding. From the moment she picks up her guitar, and takes a seat centre stage, her natural sense of elegance and calming smile, front her shy and generous spirit, as her dry and somewhat awkward sense of humour, warm and settle the crowd exquisitely. As she begins her short 30 minute set with a stunning performance of ‘Stop Your Tears,' from her self-titled debut album, Harding had the entire audience in utter mesmerisation of her enchantingly unique and awe-inspiring voice that accompanies her sweetly melodic tunes.
Soon after Aldous departed the stage, Lyttleton's Eb & Sparrow who are in fact the only national headline act to perform as a pat of the Tuning Fork's Americana Folk Festival, took to the stage, much to the delight of the enthusiastic crowd and Ebony Lamb, the ‘Eb' part of the group's, grandma it seemed, as Ebony took to the stage jokingly admitting that her grandma was very proud of her for making it onto the festival line up, and rightly so I think.
Performing nineteen songs in total, the audience were lucky enough to be treated to practically two concerts back to back, rather than one, as the group performed two fantastic sets, with a short 20 minute ‘drinks break' separating them.
Celebrating the release of their self titled debut album which came out earlier last month, the crowd got to enjoy and witness the entire album in all of it's full glory, including a few oldies, some special one off treats, and the odd cover or two.
Kick starting their entire performance with ‘Deadbeats,' the first track off the album, you could sense the entire band were already prepared and in the mood for a great night, as their delightful rapport among one another and passion for music radiated off the stage into the audience, who proved just as excited and thrilled to be there, not to mention also prepared for the fun and entertaining night which lay ahead.
Ebony certainly has a quirky way of talking between songs, cracking jokes and sharing humorous stories of her life with the audience, who enjoyed hearing these tales, just as much as she did telling them it seemed, as laughter and humorous responses from the floor to the stage were plentiful.
As the music began once more, the slightly faster paced ‘Big Train' soon followed, where by Chris Winter's trumpet playing appeared to take the lead, adding a level of warmth and engagement that just lit up the entire stage, as Ebony with her exceptionally raw and powerful voice, continued to project her voice towards the crowd while profusely strumming her guitar and walking around the stage, expressing the shear love and adoration she clearly has for her band of incredibly talented musicians.
The eerie and mysterious ‘Shadowlands,' proved a big hit with the audience, as many were left mesmerised and in awe of the calming and decadent melodic riff originating from the lap steel guitar, which Bryn Hevldtdid an outstanding job playing, showcasing a more delicate and sweet side to both the band in terms of their sound and songwriting skills, as well as revealing a more tender and enchanting side to Ebony's stunning vocals.
As the faster paced tunes continued throughout the night, Winter and bassist Jason Johnson, sure had a great time, laughing and dancing up a storm, throughout ‘Loaded Gun,' and ‘Hungry Little Town,' occasionally also taking the reign on backing vocals, adding yet another warmth to their already very soothing sounds.
If the more upbeat and energetic songs weren't enough or to your liking however, they still had much more to offer with their softer and calming ‘Quietly We Tred' and ‘Calling Calling,' which saw Winters put aside his trumpet for a minute and pick up the electric guitar and tambourine.
Soon concluding their first set, and departing the stage, it wasn't long before they took to the spotlight once more, as Ebony confessed, "I love meeting and chatting to you guys, you're so awesome," as she thanked everyone for coming, once more.
Kicking off their second set with a beautiful tune titled ‘Beware' from their 2013 EP, The Moorings, the only thing that began to slightly worry me at this stage was whether or not they were going to be able to deliver a sense of difference and originality to each tune, as the night continued, each track began to sound more similar than the last. But looking around with this in mind, the crowd didn't seem phased as they swayed along, enjoying everything the band were throwing at them, encouraging me to soon forget and get over this thought and just enjoy the music as I had been all night, anyway.
Another sweet track, which Ebony introduced as ‘The Liberator,' soon followed as she announced that this song isn't on the album, but just a special treat she wanted to share with us all. This song again had a good majority of the audience absorbed in Bryn's lap- steel playing as his concentration and focus on the instrument was immensely impressive. Proving another sweet and delicate number, the quality of the song suited Ebony's vocals perfectly as the passion of the trumpet fed in to her low and sultry tones.
Asking the audience if anyone had had a shit day today, Ebony soon pricked up again, announcing "well I just met someone who had a house fire today, so I'm deviating this song to her," she said, before launching into‘This One Time,' which proved a popular, crowd favourite for many, as Ebony's deep tones continued echoing throughout the room as the song faded to conclusion.
‘I Was High,' ‘Two Walls,' and ‘The Coward Sun,' which Ebony announced is also known and referred to within the band as, ‘Never Before,' were all great ‘oldies but goodies' excluding the humorously titled ‘I Was High' which is from their debut album.
Their 2012 single, 'In The Harbour' was also the case of being an oldie but a goodie. Proving a highlight for many, I've got to admit this song still remains my favourite from the entire night. As the track, both stunning and magical fills your heart with nothing but pure warmth and love, as Ebony's clear, soothing vocals remained echoing throughout everyone's ears as the song, and their set sadly drew to an end.
An encore was of course something that seemed pretty obvious, as the band departed the stage leaving Ebony alone to her own devices as she went on to sing a remarkable song, which I apologise not knowing the name of- but it's not on any of the band's EPs, or album, so shall have to remain nameless, before eventually truly drawing the night of great music to an end with an outstanding version of Ray Orbison's ‘Sweet Dreams,'which the band joined her on stage for, one final time, leaving the audience with no better energetic and magnificent ending, to what truly was an a phenomenal musical experience.
There always seems a lot going on up on stage when you see Eb & Sparrow perform live, but some how they have managed to draw the fine line and never clash, musically. An attribute which adds a fascinating sense to this band's live performance. Their sound is beautiful, they're all very talented and last of all and possibly the most important- their undeniable love and passion for creating and performing music all helps makes for what is one very enjoyable musical experience, and I pray they never lose this