Live at The Cluny, Newcastle: 8 February, 2013
There are some events that make you want to rush up to the band afterwards and say “THAT was amazing” and there are others where you want to say “YOU are amazing!” – I just experienced the latter.
This was The Arbour’s launch party for their new double A-aide “Scarecrow” / “All You Love Is All You Are” and the place was utterly packed. Usually where Debt Records artists are concerned I loiter in the shadows and observe the audience, but this time I was in the front row.
Anyone who has heard Bridie’s songs will probably expect the live experience to be one of hushed reverence, with a crowd of cross-legged folk purists competing to out Sshh each other. This couldn’t be further from the reality. The Arbour are one of the most entertaining bands on the circuit. I spent most of my time wiping away tears of laughter rather than grief. This is a group that understand tragedy can only exist in tandem with comedy – the songs may all be about crumbling relationships and thwarted expectation but the banter linking them together sizzles with topical observations and surreal wandering commentaries. The four musicians are one of the tightest bands I know and I don’t limit that to their performance: it’s obvious there’s a certain social synchronicity at work (one that I expect only comes about when you’ve shared the inside of a van for too long). Even during the most tender musical moments there is always the threat of a stray glance from one igniting an eruption of cackles from the others. You’d think this might undermine the sincerity of the music, but it really doesn’t, one just appreciates its fragility all the more. Indeed the compositions and arrangements seem utterly unique and their delivery heart-wrenching. The backdrop of humour and camaraderie helps to foster an inclusive atmosphere lacking in so many folk gigs.
The closest comparison I can draw is not a musical one at all. Watching Bridie Jackson & The Arbour is like watching Peter Cook and Dudley Moore – one would be compelled to remark on the unmistakable genius at work if one wasn’t trying to predict which person on the stage was going to crumple up with laughter first.