Bush Hall is one of those milestone venues for many artists when they are building their careers as it is just the right size to test whether an act can headline their own London show. With a capacity of around 240 the Hall feels fine with anything over 100. Callaghan has been working hard for the past seven years to get to Bush Hall and a good sized crowd got to see her at her very best with a three piece backing band giving a fuller three dimensional sound rather than hearing her solo as has often been the case in the past.
I first caught her at C2C in 2016 due to a strong recommendation on Radio 2 from Bob Harris who has taken a very active interest in her career and who was there alongside her husband Steve Massey to introduce her onto the stage. Tonight Callaghan did two things wonderfully on stage. The first was to bring her own songs to life with great introductions and a really characterful pure voice, The second was to treat her audience to a couple of outstanding covers. A delightful version of Ben E King’s ‘Stand By Me’ (in honour of Bob as it is his favourite song) and a quite superb rendition of John Denver’s ‘Annie’s Song.’ These two blended in perfectly with her music and it was no surprise to learn about the 400,000 miles her touring car “Wilson” has done in America taking her to 47 States and many hundreds of gigs and house concerts. This depth of experience has allowed her to hone her craft and bring out the very best from every number.
Musically Callaghan sits on the bridge between Americana and Country and she has learnt that not every song needs to be relentlessly sad in order to shine. Songs like ‘Crazy Beautiful Life’ and ‘Best Year’ are full of light and contrast really well with the poignant numbers such as ‘Skin On Skin’ and ‘When You Loved Me.’ Callaghan effortlessly slips between acoustic guitar and keyboard to capture the best possible mood for each song. Ninety minutes sped by and Callaghan finished on a really strong medley that even had a few bars of the Beatles ‘All You Need Is Love’ thrown in for good measure. After the gig, it is always a sign that people have truly enjoyed themselves when the foyer was packed for a good 45 minutes with fans having a drink and buying merch for Callaghan to sign whist she was chatting and posing for photos.
Bob Harris is right when he says Callaghan richly deserves every inch of her success by dint of her relentless hard work, not just on her material but also, just as importantly, on building connections with her audience so that they feel a part of her story and that goodwill was palpable in the Bush Hall for her and her songs. It will be fascinating to see where her musical journey takes her next but there are an awful lot of people who wish her every success along the way.