It was pre covid when #TEAMw21 were last at the Troubadour and quite a bit has changed. The familiar L shape to the venue is no more, it is now a much more conventionally shaped venue, although the walls are are slightly bizarrely adorned with musical stars painted as Saints. Tonight's entertainment will be Devon Mayson's Christmas Show - it will make for one of the more surreal and bonkers evenings of the entire year, yet will be great fun.
The evening would start with a set from Terrianne - described as bringing "Sass with gritty powerhouse pop", it was certainly at times, a little out of our comfort zone. Dressed in a shiny silver number she would open with "Walk Away" which welded the verses delivered in the speaking manner much in vogue at the moment, to a soaring soulful chorus. Normally she plays with a band, however tonight it would be with a backing track, that at times was a little bass heavy and harsher than it sounds online, at times obscuring what she was singing. It did close with some piercingly high notes.and Terrianne did get the first bit of audience participation of the evening going.
This industrial harshness of the sound would follow through into "Naive" and "Karma" , so although they were delivered with power, it was not always easy to work out what was being said. The evening would then take an unexpected turn "A break from the belting" as Terrianne would say, with a straight cover of "Have Yourself A Very Merry Christmas", so all of a sudden we were transported to a piano bar with Terrianne transforming into something of a chanteuse. It was something that she pulled off with considerable ease.
The next song "Blessed You" would see the return of the booming bass, though this time the smart, slick lyrics did filter through. and it did make you wonder if they would work better to a less bombastic sound, the explosive chorus was surely enough. The one song where this all became most evident was "Second Class Citizen", a song where clearly Terrianne had important things to say, articulate points to make about how society treats people who in any way do not confirm to the stereotype of being "normal" - however I'm not sure if the medium allowed the message to come across as clearly as she would have liked.. Towards the end Terrianne would stand motionless at the front of the stage, silent while voices of those disenfranchised relayed their messages - dramatically it was powerful stuff and her strongest original song of the night.
Another unexpected diversion saw Terrianne tackle more well known material in the shape of "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman", once again showing that singing in a traditional format had no fears for her, this version was a power soul version, complete with some startling high notes once again. When Terrianne returned to her normal delivery style it was with less bass for "Independent & Free" which worked considerably better, the attitude was still conveyed just that it was now more audible. In one last curve ball, her final song would start with mainly a drum beat before turning into a powerpop punky chorus with a madcap "Na na na na" style. So at least four different styles displayed on the night, with Terrianne proving she could do all of them equally well.
Devon's set was split into 2 parts and each of those halves was made up of a selection of either Christmas songs, covers or her own material, old and in some cases very new with four being currently unreleased. It was Devon along with Poppy Fardell who had coaxed us out of hiding for the first #TEAMw21 post covid show at Eccleston Yards and her history of Christmas shows, one most memorably being at the 100 Club meant we had high hopes for tthe evening.
Sartorially making an we would see Devon dressed as Snow White in the first half and Cinderella maybe in the second, in a gown that seemed to take up half of the stage ( and certainly managed to conceal her stomp box ) - Devon would display her musical abilities on fiddle, harp, piano and guitar. Occasionally she would be backed by a backing track on guitar however at all times she was joined by the marvellous, ever smiling Nadine Galea on violin who extracted the most exquisite tunes from her instrument. There would also be a screen at the back of the stage that would add an additional visual dimension to songs.
From the very start the Christmas theme was established with Devon's version of "Hark The Herald Angels Sing". With the back screen providing additional visuals, it was a combination of violin and backing track over which Devon would deliver her own inimitable vocal.
Strapping on her guitar Devon would keep us en route to the festivities with a version of "White Christmas" which did elicit a crowd singalong. Of most interest to us though, was Devon's unreleased material as it has been far to long since she released anything - the first one "I Can Feel Your Eyes On Me", only three weeks old, was impressive on first listen, Nadine would almost steal the show through either plucking her violin or playing flowing musical lines that even had Devon looking on admiringly.
The Christmas mood would once more come to the fore as Devon moved to the piano for "Santa Baby" and "O Holy Night". Another of Devon's unrecorded songs "All In A Moment" has now been around for a good three or four years and really deserves an official release. It deals with difficult subject of dementia but does it in a tender realistic way that could bring a lot of comfort to others facing such a situation with their relatives. It would see one of Devon's most considered vocals of the evening, and her shaking of her guitar at the very end to extract every decibel of sound showed how much she cared. To lift the mood a little "You Only Love Me When You're Drunk" was a dip into Devon's more familiar catalogue of tunes.
The opening half would close with two more songs of a Christmas theme - first an instrumental of "I Saw Three Ships" which saw Devon on guitar and Nadine's fiddle fire up a version that all but suggested a seafaring jig! The song would speed up ferociously to the clapping of the onlooking crowd. A return to the piano would then see Devon go almost operatic for "Walking In The Air" - it was definitely one of those nights!
For the second half things would continue in the same madcap manner of the first - if anything things became even stranger with Devon's second outfit at times seeming to take up nearly all of the stage. It would open with the most impractical of requests "Fairytale Of New York" , firstly it's a duet, and secondly Devon despite her many talents is not Shane McGowan! - somehow though with the assistance of Nadine and the audience along with Devon's ever exuberant guitar playing she managed to fashion a most passable version.
The evenings next strange turn was a version of "The 12 Days Of Christmas", with members of the audience allocated a line to act out. It seemed set to be a recipe for disaster yet somehow it turned into a crowd bonding experience - the intensity of the final round which once again picked up a breakneck pace as Devon reeled off all of the numbers was totally insane.
A return to familiar territory saw a version of "Lipstick In The Limelight" with Devon firing out the lyrics with an intensity. Celebrating ten years as a paid musician, Devon had a musical riposte to her school Careers Advisor with another new song entitled "Pipe Dream" - suitably stirring in its hopeful message and given additional power via the stomp box - surely an EP of material is stating to come together!! At the start of the evening Devon had handed out slips of paper for requests that she might play later - what she did not reveal was that they would be in one long mega mix with Devon sat at the piano and with Nadine joining in despite not knowing what song would come next. The choices were something of an eclectic mix and so with Cher's "Believe" being the framework upon which everything would hang, we had bits of Fleetwood Mac ( "Everywhere" and "Landslide"), Spice Girls ( Wannabe), Britney ( Toxic ), Whitney ( I Wanna Dance With Somebody), and Shania "I Feel Like A Woman" - it was an undoubted tour de force all round from Devon and Nadine.
A final new song "I'm Not Sorry" was another strong song on first listen, the lyrics to the verses fired out at pace while the chorus was strong and confident. The night of musicality would now see Devon move to the harp for a version of "Silent Night" which naturally came not only in English, but also in German and sacre bleu French! all played out against a powerful film. If that had calmed the audience then a version of "Feliz Navidad" soon had them once again singing and dancing. That mood was then continued with a barnstoming take on "The Belle Of Belfast City" The second set would close with a twin violin attack as Devon and Nadine played out with a Devon original, the ever fresh "No", accompanied by the sound of a clapping audience and Nadine's swirling fiddle lines..
An encore would see Devon return to the piano for "All I Want For Christmas Is You", initially starting with a slow piano intro, before ramping up the pace and the volume for one last time. As an evening it was undoubtedly one of the most musically varied and highly entertaining evenings you could wish for