Martha Tilston’s recent fan circular for her West Country Wonders tour stated: “Take particular note of that there Bristol gig on that there boat – great vibe and handsome sounds.” She wasn’t wrong about the venue, the crowd or the vibe and she gave them all a treat last night when she threw away her set-list part-way through her gig last night.
The support act for the night was Undercover Hippy, a well chosen local act who sits comfortably on the same politcal platform as Martha Tilston. His wordplay was fast and sharp and is an act definately worth checking out.
Watching Martha Tilston perform is a bit like seeing an old friend again, she has a way of connecting with the audience that leaves a lasting memory and this Bristol gig was extra special, being her childhood home-town. Just like her song Artifical, she has now reached the sea and is living in Cornwall where she’s teaching her two year old some great Cornish phrases to use when thirsty: “I’m ackin fethers.”
Martha Tilston’s songs are an intimate expose of her heart and feelings, an intimacy with which she always manages to captivate her audience. Last night was no exception as the Thekla crowd fell under her spell. The vibe was very strong and emotional, there was a very noticeable pause at the end of her songs has if the audience were taking time to allow the lyrics to sink in or recover themsleves before they clapped and cheered. They were not the only ones feeling the vibe as Martha suddenly announced she was “feeling a bit strange tonight” and threw away her set list and offered to take everyone on a musical journey to some darker places but promising to end on a high note. The crowd were with her all the way with the added bonus that she lost track of time and the gig went on longer than intended.
The musical journey she took us on was something you’d expect from such a socially conscious singer. Banter with the crowd touched on women’s rights, honey bee populations collapsing and how many nuclear power stations there are on our little island. She also revealed that she had been offered money for one of her tracks to be used in a film ad which she nearly accepted but took an ethical stance on in the end, not wanting her song to be used to sell a product. She’s written a new song about that experience and the evening felt like a re-affirmation of what she stands for.
Other highlights of the evening included crowd sing-alongs to Red and the inclusion of a traditional folksong, something she often does out of habit if performing at a folk club…she chose Willie O Winsbury, a child Ballad with a happy ending for a change. She also sang acapella with her backing singer to Gillian Welch’s Everything is Free. The band were perfect, knowing when to lift the atmosphere and place those silences to allow those words to sink in. Her lyrics are as sharp and breathtaking as any poets and songs like Old Tom Cat, a tribute to leonard Cohen really bring that home with Martha’s subtle play on words.
It was a joy to see Martha Tilston performing again, she is an artist I never tire of and if you haven’t seen her live, then you must! What a great experience, both myself and Amanda came away on an emotional high and a warm glow as we strolled back along the river talking about our dreams of escaping the rat-race and reaching the sea. Bliss!
Track: Artificial from her Live album: Real
Order Real from Martha Tilston’s store
Other Tour Dates
Thurs 16th June Frome, Rook Lane Arts http://www.rooklanearts.org.uk
Sat 25th June Dartington Hall, Home Festival, Devon. 3pm http://www.dartington.org/home