For the second week running 229 played host to a quite exceptional night of music as both Megan O'Neill and Emily Faye bowed out for the final time in 2019 .
It was but a few weeks ago that we remarked on the need to see more of Emily Faye and is if by magic she appears. At the recent Write Like A Girl gig she was seated and very much was the Country singer, tonight standing with Michael Clancy on guitar for company she was very much the epitome of the singer songwriter. Not sure if it was the standing or the choice of songs that made the difference it was just different though still as entertaining.
Emily was in fine form opening with "Leaving Looks Good On You", with the twin acoustic guitars and twin vocals making an outstanding introduction. The next song was introduced as being a personal song about herself, "Fearless" being the working title, with a prominent heavily strummed style running through it, and a chorus that has all the hooks and ingredients for a great recorded song, including a little section where Emilys voice drops to almost a whisper before it comes roaring back with a vengeance. The first time we ever saw Emily was at the Hertford Corn Exchange's excellent Corn On The Cob night, the stand out song that night was to become her debut single "Open Road" and tonight it was back in the set, slightly faster than I remember it with the added joy of watching Emily's become a photographers dream with what seemed a zillion different eye poses as she played.
To counteract the somewhat cold weather outside, the joys of summer were recreated with "Barefoot", a laid back tune full of images evoking those days of sunshine like "dipping toes in the water". Some nice little bits of stage craft as the song slowed down and a lovely guitar solo from Michael made this irresistible on the night. With Michael in tow, for the next song "Looking For The Real Thing" Emily was able to just hold her guitar and concentrate on singing in a quite beautiful performance, In what was to be a brief but excellent set ,Emily closed out with "Sucks To Be You" a chance for Emily to get the audience into a singing mood. It was a set a that burnt bright and before Megan was able to take to the stage, Emily's entire stock of merchandise was sold out which is as good a testimony as any as to how good she was.
Megan O'Neill took to the stage, looking startling with a wonderfully sparkling dress, and would continue to sparkle throughout the evening. With a band containing 2 guitarists, a bass player and drums the scope for her being too loud in such a venue was obvious but they were perfectly restrained. The show opened with Megan stood behind her keyboard for "Let's Make One Up" with her voice gloriously high in the mix on an almost jazzy opener. The next song "Bottle" began mainly with just Megan's piano, before the band kicked in on the chorus, with Megan using the opportunity to hit the audience with a wonderfully powerful vocal. Nothing gives an artist a lift like the audience cheering a song that they recognize without requiring an introduction and "the Ghost Of You" was barely three notes in before the ripple of appreciation spread around the audience, The band providing a wonderfully sympathetic backing made this a wonderful start to the set. The band did up the volume for the perfect pop of "Without", sounding slightly faster than the recorded version and all the better for it. Megan introduced "Why I Need You" her beautiful piano ballad, as being "The wedding song of the Century", it's power being instantly demonstrated by the couple in front of #TEAMw21, who immediately start cuddling up to each other. This was the sort of performance that should really make Megan a household name, perfect on just about every level,
Giving the band a break and donning a guitar, for a new song ,"Strangers Before We Met", written with Ben Earle it had the hallmarks of early Shires material, personal and observational and delivered in some style by Megan - one to watch out for without a doubt - simply jaw droppingly good, receiving a universal thumbs up form those assembled. The next one "Any Younger" was co written with The Dunwells, and was something of a performance piece with wonderful backing vocals making this something of a spectacle, along with the band gradually building their parts throughout. It was then that Megan announced the words that can send dread through any gig goer, "the next six songs are all brand new!" The first continued the list of guest co writers with "Devil You Know" co written with Jake Morell, another simply outstanding song, Megan positively bouncing up and down during the guitar solo.
The new songs kept on coming and just continued to get better and better, "Fire With Fire" came with an all powerful chorus that again saw Megan bouncing, and the audience crying out their approval mid song, for this gloriously uptempo sassy rocking song. It was then time for Megan's Christmas single due for release the following week, "Winter Sun" had one of those piano lines that just screamed Christmas,
The new songs continued with a clutch of Kaity Rae co writes, the first "Sometimes I Learn" came with a thumping back beat, and a somewhat quirky chorus, quirky it may have been but it did not stop the people around me from immediately picking it up and start singing it second time round! If that was good then the next one "Break Hearts" was even better and you soon started to understand why Megan was so keen to play this new material. Megan was joined on vocals by Lewis on guitar for a duet with each playing a specific part in something of a magnificent tour de force.
The influence of the Dunwells once again came to the fore, as they were responsible for bringing an 8 year old tune out of retirement, "Under Rated", a slower song with a crackingly different guitar line and great vocal from Megan which was another attention grabbing song even on first listen. The run of new songs was eventually broken by Megan's cover of last year, "Girl Crush" with Lewis a