The first concert of the new year at Lincolnshire’s premier Americana music venue saw the return of Canadian duo Brenley MacEachern and Lisa Maclsaac better known as Madison Violet who only last June treated the regulars to one of the finest gigs of the year. The local congregation had obviously done their bit in spreading the word as the evening’s show was a sell out and you could almost taste the excitement and anticipation as you entered the hall. Last year’s visit from the duo had been squeezed in between visits to the Shetland Festival and the Black Deer festival so it felt extra special that they included the venue as part of a dozen live shows on this return visit to the UK.
The period between their two shows had seen the release of Madison Violet’s most recent album ‘Eleven’ with those attending last year’s gig able to take advantage of the advance copies that were available to buy on that night. Recorded in their very own Airstream Recording Studio which they had purchased and converted during lockdown, the album was one of the finest of last year that somehow seemed to slip under the radar this side of the pond though already the recipient of numerous accolades in their home country. Tonight gave the duo, who as with the last tour were more than ably supported by Jake Zapotoczny on keyboards, bass and electric guitar, the opportunity to give the album the full promotional treatment and it was therefore no surprise that almost half of the show was taken up with tracks from ‘Eleven’.
Twenty years and eleven albums into their career and Madison Violet have amassed a back catalogue of such strength and depth that they can comfortably fill a show with two hour sets that negates the need for a support act and so it was that as the clock struck the hour the three musicians took to the stage opening with ‘Sweat Desperado’ from the new album. Here MacEachern takes the lead with a tender wistful melody and a strummed guitar as Maclsaac supplies some delicate fiddle that immediately draws the congregation close creating an intimacy that holds throughout the evening’s performance. The storytelling and interaction between songs is both relaxed and full of humour as you’d expect from an act with such experience, but there’s also another side, more direct, unapologetic, with a willingness to open up about some of the heartache that lies at the core of songs such as ‘Time To Right The Wrong’ from their 2019 album ‘Everything’s Everything’, which in doing so helps to expose the scars and allows the listener to fully connect with the message. Further tracks from the new album litter the first set such as ‘Utah’, the album’s opening track, and ‘Not Allowed To Love You’, written and sung by Maclsaac who again supplies some stunning fiddle playing. Both MacEachern and Maclsaac are fine singers but it’s when their voices come together that a special kind of magic emanates as each delicately wraps around the other creating a sound built on twenty years of harmonising that at times is almost ethereal. Not everything during the first set is from ‘Eleven’ as the duo’s 2017 album ‘The Knight Session’ is represented by ‘Ohio’, again with some sublime fiddle from Maclsaac, and ‘These Ships’ which brings proceedings to a close for the first half of the night’s performance.
After a short break for refreshments during which time many of the audience took the opportunity to avail themselves from the array of tempting merchandise available, the second set got underway with ‘Golden Embers’, one of the stand out tracks from the new album with its plaintive, soulful melody that has a timeless quality that sounds as if it could have been written during those halcyon days of Laurel Canyon. Such is the quality of the songs from ‘Eleven’ one can’t help but wonder whether the dream of finally owning their own recording studio which has ultimately allowed them to have a much more hands on approach has inspired the duo to create what is surely their finest album to date. This point is perfectly emphasised by the following number ‘The Sycamore’, also from the album, with its anthemic chorus line before ‘Come As You Are’ takes us back ten years to the album ‘The Good In Goodbye’ where MacEachern treats us to some fine harmonica playing while Zapotoczny who throughout the evening has contributed everything from solid bass lines to colourful chord accompaniment on the keyboard here supplies some chunky lines from the electric guitar. Next we travel even further back with the beautiful ‘The Ransom’ from 2009’s breakthrough album ‘No Fool For Trying’ with the duo’s vocals weaving so closely together that it times it sounds like one voice with a resonance so rich and deep.
One more track from ‘Eleven’ followed with the heartachingly beautiful ‘Here For You To Love’ before the trio brought the second set to a close with a thoroughly enjoyable cover of Leo Sayer’s seventies hit ‘You Make Me Feel Like Dancing’ showing off both the band’s sense of fun but also the desire to keep mixing things up all of which went down a storm with the audience who could barely resist from getting up and dancing along. Needless to say an encore was raucously demanded by the crowded who throughout the show had totally invested in the night’s performance and so it was that MacEachern, Maclsaac and Zapotoczny returned to the stage for one last number. But in truth they didn’t, for as with their last visit once retrieving their instruments they came and perched on the front of the stage before closing with the inevitable ‘Small Of My Heart’ and thus keeping the connection and intimacy between musicians and audience right to the last note. A truly wonderful evening by a truly wonderful act.
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