Live Review: Aoife O’Donovan and the Age of Apathy Band + Donovan Woods, Barbican, London – 2nd November 2022

This show, originally scheduled for May 2020 under the banner Songs and Strings Tour finally took place on a very wet 2nd November this year as part of the Age of Apathy tour.  Aoife O’Donovan was pretty busy through the pandemic, streaming from her Brooklyn town house with her husband and brother-in-law, wassailing with Chris Thile, webcasting from a church and issuing several live recordings as well as a home recorded version of Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska‘.  She also found the time to record the collection of songs comprising the ‘Age of Apathy’ album with producer Joe Henry.  Last spring, she wrote and recorded a duet, ‘IOWA’, with tonight’s support Donovan Woods who we learned tonight that she met in person only at the beginning of the current tour.

Woods rolled up in plaid shirt and woolly hat playing the part of the self-deprecating Canadian folkie and played a funner-than-he-claimed set which featured ‘Portland Maine’ co-written with and recorded by Tim McGraw.  He left the stage to warm applause.

After the break O’Donovan and band started their set with  an ‘Age of Apathy’ opener, ‘Galahad’. “You’re a white knight I’m a dark horse” flowing into the “I’m’ alive, I’m alive” chorus as much an affirmation of the renewal of live performance.  ‘Elevators’ is next, nodding to the movement theme that runs through the album. Guitar and fiddle player Isa Burke takes Allison Russell’s part on the Tim O’Brien co-write ‘Prodigal Daughter’. Burke’s playing and singing is a highlight of tonight’s show and complements O’Donovan’s vocal and songs really well.

The set loops back to 2016’s ‘In The Magic Hour’ with fine versions of the title song along with ‘Hornets’ and ‘Porchlight’. The travel theme re-emerges as O’Donovan shares the delights of a journey on National Express before running through two bus songs, the city based ‘B61’ and the interstate ‘Lucky Star.’  Again, the band interplay is impressive.  ‘Age of Apathy‘  moves on to the car but also expresses a longing for days when the news was less pressing and depressing.  It closes with Joni’s ‘My Old Man‘ on the radio. A gripping ‘King of All The Birds’ leads into the set closer ‘Passengers’ which wraps the transport, mythical and avian themes together and provides a perfect climax to the show.  O’Donovan’s vocals and delivery were a joy throughout.

Of course, having waited the best part of three years, we weren’t about to let it go there and she was brought back for the encore: a duet of O’Donovan and Woods performing a beautiful version of ‘IOWA’.

2 Comments

    • Yes – Ethan Jodziewicz on bass and a drummer who may have been Robin McMillan who is on the ‘Live at the HiFi’ recording but I didn’t catch the name on the band intros. Ms O’Donovan is back in the UK for four dates in February next year (Glasgow, Gateshead, Leeds and London (Kings Place) so hopefully you can catch her then.

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