Live Review: Brigid O’Neill, Basement at the Green Note, London – 4th June 2024

Brigid O'Neill live at Green Note London 4 June 2024

Intimate is perhaps an overused adjective for gigs in smaller venues, but it is certainly appropriate for the basement at London’s Green Note. Watching Bridget O’Neill perform two sets, with her son Cian McGrory joining her on acoustic guitar and pipes, felt like a house concert to which we had been privileged to be invited.The evening showcased O’Neill’s very fine vocals and songwriting (recommended by us last year to “anyone who likes songwriters and singers of the calibre of Gretchen Peters”) the comparison fully justified tonight on the strength of her performance.</ >Songs from her 2023 release “The Truth and Other Stories” featured prominently in her two sets, notable highlights including the so-poignant ‘Easy’, featured in the video clip , and ‘Live a Little Lie Oh’, a single release from the album which was recorded in Nashville, with Nielsen Hubbard in the producer seat. O’Neill’s songs which shine on the album with big productions are equally at home in the acoustic setting of the Green Note with McGrory adding an indie vibe, some jazzy chords, or well judged licks as appropriate to the song. ‘You’re Not Gonna Leave Me Honey’ was another album highlight, O’Neill quick to reassure us that this particular song did not reflect her current circumstances!

It was a particular pleasure to hear the backstory behind many of her songs, including a series of songs commissioned by the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, telling stories associated with historic landmark buildings in Ulster. ‘Sisters Born Here’, she told us, reflects the true story of the inmates of a women’s prison in Ulster which accommodated prisoners from both sides of the political divide during the Troubles. Despite the obvious difficulties of the situation, a former inmate recounted to O’Neill how common ground was found – women taking it in turns to sing songs (whether or not they could sing, she noted), or read a poem.

Also from “The Truth and Other Stories” ‘Prayers’ offered the opportunity for audience participation, with its refrain  “Are your prayers going to save you now”, a message for our times in so many ways, while ‘Amelia’ was written from the inspiration of photos of a new baby born to an American couple from Oklahoma who she met at one of her gigs – “Amelia breaks a smile, and the whole world lights up”. Another poignant moment came with her rendition of ‘Leaving’, released in 2020 as a single but also featuring on her most recent album – the song telling of a woman leaving her home for the last time, she told us, seems to have a resonance with many listeners, from their own experiences.

O’Neill has a very sweet tone to her voice, which carries with it hope even in the saddest of ballads, all in all a very special evening at the Green Note!

About David Jarman 123 Articles
Long time fan of Americana genre, from early days of Ry Cooder, through to today's thriving scene. Regular visitor to USA ( Nashville/Austin/Memphis/LA ) live music junkie, I play guitar, mandolin, harmonica, plus vocals, run monthly jam session in Broadstairs
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Charisse Poland

I was there too that night and it was my first time in Green Note. It was a great night of music and friends. Thanks for the lovely write up.