Heather Findlay

York's Little Festival of Live Music

28 September 2017

The strange thing about this gig was that all the "usual suspects" were missing. You know, the same people who are always at the front of the queue outside the venue and at the front of the stage, the same people I've seen at every gig in York for the last 18 years. I only saw two faces I knew in the whole crowd. Where was everybody? Worn out by the trip to see Mostly Autumn at the weekend?

Luckily the crowd that was there to see the show was of a decent size, and they all seemed to be fans—or if they weren't previously, they became fans once Heather started, as all her songs got a great reception.

Due to the early start time, on a work night, I had to miss most of the bands on the bill so I can't comment, though I did catch the last few minutes of The Bronze from somewhere near the back, and thought they were pretty good. But I was there at the front for Heather. The problem with being at the front, right next to a speaker designed to fill a huge marquee, is that the sound was too loud and slightly distorted, which was unfortunate. The sound was much better further back for The Bronze, but then you had to contend with the noise from crowds at the food and beer stands, so on balance moving up and getting a louder sound (and proper view) was the best plan.

Heather started a little after 8pm, slightly late due to setting up instruments and sound checking, but still played for close to an hour, which is what I was expecting. And even just an hour of Heather Findlay is worth a trip to York.

The Heather Findlay "Quartet" is: Martin Ledger on electric guitar and vocals, Joska de Langen on keyboard, flute and vocals, Sarah Dean on harp, percussion and vocals, and of course Heather on voice, guitar, and recorder.

Don't let the flute and harp and lack of drums mislead you: this gig wasn't about Heather's "folky" side, this was a pure rock gig, with Heather in full-powered "rock" voice. Which was just the right choice for the environment—too many soft ballads would have been lost in the background noise.

So the set wouldn't surprise people who know Heather already, being mostly a cut-down version of the set she's been doing for the last year or so. But this is the first time I've heard the songs delivered by a quartet, so the arrangements were all a bit different. With only an hour to play, a few of my favourites were inevitably missing, but I'm not going to complain about what we did get: Caught in a Fold, Bitterness Burnt, Dark Eyes / The Dreamer's Wake, Island, I Am Snow, and Evergreen. Plus one very unexpected cover: Pink Floyd's Grantchester Meadows, which was an inspired choice, too perfect for words.

Evergreen finishes the set, and it's an epic version. Even though it was originally written for an eight-piece rock band, they get a massive and powerful and yet intricate sound out of just four instruments and voices, and the big instrumental climax is replaced by Heather channelling Robert Plant, and showing that she's the best rock singer around today. And I think just keeps getting better. And still sings Evergreen better than anybody else. (Sorry, everybody else.)

Even at only an hour long, it was the best concert I've ever seen.