Beauty emerges from the Hayes

Gemma HayesGemma Hayes, live @ The Leadmill, Sheffield, Monday, March 13, 2006

In Sheffield on Saturday, I’m pretty sure no one else was driving quite as far home after seeing Gemma Hayes end her tour at the Leadmill.

Work commitments meant I had a 380-mile drive to Aberdeen, through the night, straight after the last chord was played. But I’m glad I didn’t give up my ticket.

Gemma (pictured) was everything I was looking forward to, mixing up the set beautifully with older and newer songs from the driving Hanging Around to the mellow new single Undercover.

The only slight annoyance was the frankly strange version she played of my favourite song, Another For The Darkness, which was slowed down so much, with some curious drumming, that Gemma’s lyrics had to be dragged over the chorus – although it did sound kind of sexy!

I discovered the Irish singer-songwriter’s first album, Night On My Side, by accident in 2002 when I was supposed to be buying a Michelle Branch CD (which turned out to be easily forgettable).

The happy mistake became a regular listen and it seemed like an eternity until the follow-up, The Roads Don’t Love You, appeared on the shelves last year. The albums are quite different – the second more poppy – but they both deserve to be heard by a much wider audience.

It wouldn’t be fair to review the gig without mentioning the excellent support – another Irish singer-songwriter by the name of Duke Special, who had the help of eccentric percussionist Chip Bailey.

Duke (pictured below), with piano and gramophone accompaniment, sang clever, beautiful songs as Chip played various “instruments” ranging from conventional drums to cheese graters and whisks (classily taken from a plastic shopping bag).

In his songs I’m hearing Badly Drawn Boy, Barry Manilow, Ben Folds and Elton John. But don’t be scared – listen. Especially to Freewheel. Eight hours after the gig, at 6am, after a slog through snow-covered motorways, I arrived in Aberdeen, still humming the tunes.

Duke Special

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