December 15, 2013

Concert #695 - Aoife O'Donovan at McCabe's Guitar Shop (December 14, 2013)

Last night was my third time to see the lovely Aoife O'Donovan in action at McCabe's, but only the first time as a solo performer. Her earlier appearances there with Crooked Still and Ollabelle made a fan out of me, but I must confess that I was less taken by "Fossils", her first-ever full-length solo album. As a result, I showed up at McCabe's with a certain dose of mixed feelings, not really knowing what to expect.

Pronunciation guide: Aoife, an Irish name, sounds like EE-fa, with emphasis on the first syllable. Go figure.

Somewhat surprisingly, Aoife came out without any backup musicians and from that moment on, her gorgeous voice and cheerful personality carried the evening. She opened with a gospel tune that's at least eighty-years old, "Troubled About My Soul", from which she transitioned seamlessly into something newer, the self-penned "Lay My Burden Down", a song also recorded by Alison Krauss. The crowd responded with enthusiasm. The show continued with many songs from "Fossils", interspersed with numbers from other sources, such as Crooked Still's "The Lovesick Redstick Blues" and the traditional "Pretty Polly". She ended her set with "Oh, Mama", also from "Fossils", with full crowd participation. For her one-song encore, she chose to sing Doc Watson's "A-Roving On A Winter's Night". Overall, Aoife's performance last night at McCabe's ranks right up there with the very best I've seen there, and I've seen a few.

Aoife O'Donovan at McCabe's
Throughout the show, Aoife accompanied herself on acoustic guitar. She is not a guitar virtuoso, but her playing did not hurt her either, that's for sure. Funny thing, though: I loved each and every song Aoife sang last night, even the ones whose studio versions failed to initially excite me. After the show, while driving home, I gave "Fossils" another good listen, this time with radically different results. Reconsidering an album after having seen the respective artist in a live setting is nothing new to me and it may have happened to you as well.

Aoife O'Donovan having fun at McCabe's
Aoife O'Donovan set list
The unmistakable star of the show was Aoife's voice, a truly beautiful instrument. Singing seemingly without effort, she kept her audience captive for the entire duration of the show, about 75 minutes in all. There's no one out there who sounds quite like Aoife, and it's more than just the beauty of her voice: equally exquisite is her phrasing. There's plenty of soul and emotion in her voice, even when she brings it down to a whisper, like she often does. I liked her work with both Crooked Still and Ollabelle, but if you want a full helping of Aoife, then you must catch one of her solo concerts.

The evening kicked of with a forty-five minute set delivered by Patrick Park, an American singer-songwriter whom I had not seen before. I liked his guitar playing, there was a lot of variety in his finger-work. I also liked some of his songs, "Holding Hands" and "Blackbird" in particular. On the minus side, I found Patrick's delivery somewhat repetitive, as he used the same vocal and emotional approach to most of his songs.  

Patrick Park at McCabe's
Patrick Park's set list
Aoife O'Donovan (left) chatting with fans after the show
Patrick Park chatting with fans after the show

1 comment:

  1. I miss this one i thought i could watch this.Lately we are selling lot of tickets in Finland for some concert and sadly that i did not watch this but i heard it was a good concert.