The queues for this show were forming well before 18:00 a full 90 minutes before doors were due to open, such was the expectation and such is the buzz currently surrounding Sarah Darling, so much so that her next show in London will be a much bigger affair at The Union Chapel in early March. The ripple effect of "Dream Country" and a large number of dates, on key supports with the likes of Ward Thomas & The Shires, the tour with Jenn Bostic & Michael Logan and a host of festival appearances throughout the summer has significantly raised her profile.
Our first unexpected Christmas present of the season arrived in the shape of Kaity Rae deputising as support. In a year in which she has already graduated from university the last few months have seen an amazing creative burst and her set is full with mainly recently written material. Playing at the Union Chapel achieved one of her personal ambitions and i'm sure she'll be crossing of many more of those in the months to come. "Somebody Elses Problem" got things off to a wonderful start, while "You Took The Weather With You" already had the feel of a song that was going to need a large band to bring it to its full potential when recorded. With the cold necessitating a regular tuning on her guitar between songs and a silently attentive crowd you could forgive any show of nerves but there were none, instead she was able to keep us in her grip for the whole performance, another sign in her confidence as a performer.
The new songs kept on coming "Spare Room" with it's lovely pay off line sounds better with every performance, while "Second Time" co written with University tutor Sophie Daniels, is another stand out song containing lots of vivid details. One of the older songs on show tonight was "All That I Am" and I was struck with how Kaity seems to achieve the perfect balance of knowing when to sing quiet and when to build things up to great effect. As if to show the rich vein of form that she is in there was a debut for a new song written with Jess Sharman, called "Entitled" which managed to combine some sassy lyrics while making some quite pertinent observations. With new material due to be released next year, this lady will be one to watch to see just how far she can progress.
Taking to the stage in a stunning green sparkling dress, Sarah Darling was to deliver Christmas cheer in the form of songs from her "Winter Wonderland" album, a glimpse into the past with the closest live recreation yet of songs from "Dream Country", and a look into the future with a selection of songs, all potentials for inclusion on next years project.
Things start in true Christmas style with a cheekily delivered "Santa Baby", some of the lines beautifully acted out, followed by "White Christmas", and the funky hawaiian version of "Winter Wonderland". The new songs that were premiered to UK ears on Wednesday in stripped back versions now started to take some sort of shape , "Shimmer Like Gold" very modern sounding, while "Diamonds" co written with Jess Sharman has delicate verses attached to a big chorus and is sure to be one of the stand out tracks of whatever project Sarah presents to us next year.
With a band consisting of keyboards, 2 guitarists, a drummer, violin, drums and bass, the songs from Dream Country have never sounded better or been appreciated more, the round of applause after "Halley's Comet" and "Where Cowboys Ride" was richly deserved. It was back to the yuletide mood for "The Christmas Song" and Joni Mitchell's "River", the delivery of the word "Play" in the chorus was sung absolutely beautifully. More hints of next year came with "Wasted" and the song premiered during Country Music Week, the Jamie Evans co write "Angel Wings" which had the feel of a song that we should all be singing around a fire in an Irish bar, as if it was already a classic - definitely another one to watch out for,
It may have felt more like a night in Oslo but for the final song we were once again transported to Paris for the wonder that is "Montemarte" which received a standing ovation.Things came to a close with an encore of "Silent Night", the second verse delivered off microphone from the front of the stage with the assistance of the assembled audience. It will be nearly three months before the next show at Union Chapel, I'll be amazed if anyone who witnessed tonight is not there.