20 Aug 2019
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Gig Review: Tom Cunliffe & Emily Fairlight @ The Cook, Dunedin - 10/11/2018

23 Nov 2018 // A review by Darryl Baser

The Cook is home to a few music fans, with a few still standing or swaying from the city's craft beer festival, which had people imbibing from mid-morning. Tom Cunliffe opens up the evening's performance with the fantastic song Came My Way

With a penchant for odd stories, Tom goes on to say that his second song A Park in Barcelona is about "the sexiest statue he's ever seen".

With a woodgrain acoustic guitar, Tom is every part the modern-day troubadour. Which is heightened by the lyrics of his third song, Burning Blood, in which he tells a story about a woman the writer has been smitten with. So, troubadour right now.

Cunliffe has travelled a fair bit and he tells the gradually growing audience that his fourth tune, Primrose Hill was named after its namesake, Primrose Hill in London, which is where the song was created.

A part of Tom's performance, and incorporated into the banter is explaining each track. Working two-fold in providing context to the songs before we hear them, but it also tells us a little about Tom himself.

By the time the song Just Kids from his first record is played, there's a few more people inside, and judging by the sounds of the chatter coming from the back of the room they've pre-loaded somewhere. However, Tom's claw-hammer guitar picking styles is faultless.

This Table Is A River is next. The finger picking is ditched for a plectrum, and a quickening of the tempo. The lyrical metaphor is awesome. "This table is a river the silence makes it wide. Stuck without a paddle on the other side". Bloody good chorus... check it out at the Auckland Folk Festival here.

Tom then finished up his set with In My Own Time and Someone Else's Life.

Right from the first song, Body Below, Emily Fairlight and her band are incredible, she announced later it’s the first time this line-up has played together. Although it’s a little noticeable in places, their performance fits in well with the genre.

Body Below is a truly beautiful and haunting song and it's followed by Emily's brilliant new song, Same Person. Same Person has a great tune and it's completely alt-country. The Renderers comes to mind; due to the well-crafted songs, performed by a band fronted by a strong woman with a charming presence and stunning voice.

The third song performed is The Escape, which has a lilting 6/8 time signature, encouraging those sober and not-so-sober to move to the music.

It’s a warm night in The Cook, and I can’t help how long how long she is going to be able to be on stage with that fur coat on, she must be warming up. (She ends up wearing the fur for the whole set, and rightly so; it is gorgeous, and she rocks it.)

Emily and Hope Robertson re-tune and the band pads for time with anecdotes about "long boobs" and a "music industry guy from the US who was looking for 18-year-old singers to give them a 4 to 6 year career". Fairlight says; “at 35 it was a bit shit.”

They have to re-tune up to standard tuning which takes a while, but Emily and Michael are blessed with good banter skills, which makes it less painful and awkward than it could have been.

They play an up an up-tempo number to close their set, and after a few shouts of encore from the sparse but enthusiastic crowd, Emily is as honest as they come, saying "ok, but we’ll just bring the mood down as we’ve peaked", or words to that effect.

They launch into one last song, Black Horse, which is slower than the previous tune, but the perfect way to end this wonderful evening.

A 4 out of 5 performance.


Photos courtesy of Darryl Baser

 

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