Heather Findlay / Odin Dragonfly

Northern Centre for Early Music, York

19 December 2018

This is my second time in the NCEM. The last time was a few years ago, listening to music by Olivier Messiaen, one of the 20th century's best composers. Now I'm listening to Heather Findlay, the 21st century's best singer. One day I'm going to have to come and hear some actual early music!

But anyway, I'm digressing. What I want to say is that it's a great venue, a physically impressive ancient stone church that has a beautiful acoustic for music. I think it struggles to handle a rock band, but everything still sounds clear and nicely balanced even with seven people on stage.

So, last concert of the tour. Last and best. In my last review I talked about how Heather played an extra set in place of the support band. I think I said it was the best support act I've ever seen. I lied. Because:

Odin Dragonfly.

The main act could have been anybody tonight, and I would still have been here for Odin Dragonfly. My two favourite musicians, either one I would go a bazillion miles to see on their own or in any other band, but when they are together there's just something magical happening. It's an absolutely perfect vocal partnership, supported by the interplay of guitar, flute and piano, that makes this duo greater than the sum of its parts. In Wolverhampton Heather played a brand new Odin Dragonfly song and said we would have to imagine Angela's part. Well, I thought I could, and in my imagination it sounded pretty good. Huh. My imagination is rubbish, I didn't come even close to how beautiful it sounded with them harmonising together.

As well as that, there was one other song that I recognised from their gig here at the Black Swan in the summer, and everything else was new. They actually played a thirty-minute set without a single one of their old songs in it. And I didn't care a bit, because every song was an instant favourite. If you look at their published writing credits over the years, neither one of them seems to be a prolific songwriter, but every single song they write, together or separately, is perfect, beautifully formed and perfectly suited to them. The new album will be next year's album of the year on the strength of the songs they've revealed here, and can't come soon enough.

If you were to ask me which band I want to see tomorrow night, the answer would be Odin Dragonfly. And the next night. In fact, they should do a residency in my front room. That would be perfect.

These 30 minutes have been the best concert I have ever seen.

And now it looks like I'm being really unfair to Heather, because this is her show and I'm just reviewing the support band, but this is the fifth gig I've seen on the tour, I've written about them all, and you all know what I think. Heather Findlay is the most perfect singer I've ever heard, and I don't know what else I can say.

For this home town gig, the trio is augmented by the addition of several guests, including Heather's son on harmonium for one song; Joska de Langen on flute, piano/synth, guitar and backing vocals for a couple of songs; Angela Gordon (hmm, she looks familiar...) on flute, piano and backing vocals on a couple of songs; and a rhythm section of Stu Fletcher on bass and Jimmy Pallagrosi (apologies if I got the name wrong, he's the only musician on stage I didn't know) on drums for the last few songs.

The arrangements of Heather's songs for the trio of two guitars and a harp on this tour have been beautiful, and when she announced there would be guests for this gig I was slightly disappointed that I wouldn't have one more chance to hear the music in the arrangements I've come to love. But the trio played as a trio for more than half the set anyway (and Martin and Sarah were superb as usual, but that barely needs saying, they're consistently world-class musicians), and when the guests came on I wasn't disappointed in any of them of course. Every addition perfectly complemented the core trio, and by the time it got to the end and a total of seven musicians were on stage for a rocking version of Shrinking Violet, a big, rich sound but still made intimate by Heather's intensely personal vocal that I still feel was written specifically for me...

Well. I hadn't realised how much I'd missed the big sound of a rocking version of Shrinking Violet. Specifically, how much I'd missed seeing and hearing Angela there while Heather's singing Shrinking Violet. With all due respect to the other members of the band(s), this is what I fell in love with. It's been too many years.


Oh my god.

I can't write any more.

(Fade out on Swan Lake...)