Megan & The Common Theads - Green Note
A triple bill at the Green Note is always likely to yield an evening of great entertainment, tonight was to give us: a familiar face, a welcome return and something brand new.
It was a first time for us seeing Sara & Kenny, an eclectic duo it has to be said, consisting of Italian Sara and Kenny, originally a resident of Milwaukee, USA. It was a blend of jazz and traditional music, hard to describe but somewhere between early Prefab Sprout and Roderigo y Gabriela. The opener “Portraits Of A New Life” definitely had that jazzy feel to it, as did “Four Minutes” later in the set; both of which challenge your conventional ideas of where a tune should go in an entertaining way. In many ways, they were to prove a surprise, few were expecting the second song to begin with them banging on their guitars!
Their traditional songs included “Familiar Rhythms” based around the tarantella from Southern Italy and a Venezuelan folk song “Canto Del Agua” were fascinating to watch, as both the playing was excellent and Sara’s voice proved to be somewhat hypnotic.
In a rare London appearance, it was great to see Emma Swindells once again, this time eschewing her beloved banjo and playing only acoustic guitar, in what was to be a thoroughly captivating set. Starting with “Dancing My Own”, the tale of unwanted attention at a Birmingham disco. I’ve seen this performed before in almost comic fashion, but tonight, to an attentive Green Note audience, you got a real sense of the discomfort behind the song.
In a short seven song set, it did make you wonder why we don’t get to see her in London more often, with her songs perfectly introduced, giving little glimpses into their origins. Songs from her excellent EP featured strongly, “Thicker Skin”, and “Path’s Haven’t Crossed” both sounded good in these basic stripped down versions, while “Flatline” saw some great guitar work and real passion in the performance.
If there is something that defines Emma’s work it is the sheer honesty of it, the feeling of being on the wrong end of false rumours perfectly dealt with on “Rise Above It”. The good news is that there should be a follow up EP later this year, and one would imagine that her final song “Lost For Words” will appear on it, it got a community singalong at the Green Note which must be a good sign!
Tonight, it was Megan O’Neill and The Common Threads Trio, adjusting their sound to fit the venue. With her new EP only a matter of weeks away this first gig of the year for her was a chance to get warmed up for a no doubt hectic time ahead. Normally a 6 piece, tonight was to see Megan assisted only by Dan Clark and Tom Smith on guitars and backing vocals.
Initially dressed in a cardigan, wearing a scarf, Megan opened the set, with “London City Ghosts”, also the opener on the EP, a familiar part of her live set. The first song saw a slight adjustment required in the sound as Megan was a little lost in the mix but that was to be the only minor glitch in an otherwise impeccable set. A joyful mix of old and new, the exuberant defiance of “Don’t You” leading into “Meet Me In the Middle”, where the lack of keyboards was made up for by the three voices in great harmony.
Of the new EP songs, the one about a break in, “Walls” seemed to take on a more menacing air with the sparse instrumentation seeming to accentuate the line “Now I don’t feel safe here on my own”. It was a great performance of an obviously very personal song. It was followed by “Stories To Tell”, the title track of the new EP once again highlighting some beautiful harmonies. Things then took on an impromptu change, when the show went from being acoustic to unplugged, as the stage was vacated, and Megan and her Threads found a small space in the middle of the Green Note for a new song “Half Of Myself”.
On returning to the stage there was another timely reminder, of the times that we are living in, “Devil and the Deep” putting a human face to the plight of the refugees. Once again Megan’s voice was in exemplary form and she got a rousing singalong from the assembled crowd. The home straight, the joyfully upbeat “Now That You’re Mine” before the night was to close with another song from the EP, the first single “Blessing Or A Curse”. It was a fine end to the night, with Megan closing out on a final piece of vocal gymnastics - an absolute delight!