Marjana Semkina

The Black Heart, Camden

17 December 2018

You know how it is when you've never seen an artist live before so you have no idea what kind of set you're going to get, and on the train down you're listening to Sleepwalking Music and thinking, I hope she sings Mermaid Song?

Well, she sang Mermaid Song. Can you guess how happy I am?

Ok, my sleep-deprived review notebook from last night is just full of scribblings and question marks about song titles, so I'm going to ignore it and start again this morning.

For her first ever solo gig, I don't see how Marjana could have wished it to go any better. The Black Heart was packed early, there were plenty of Iamthemorning t-shirts around, and every song was greeted enthusiastically. Marjana seemed happy, and confident, she communicates with the crowd like it's a crowd of her friends she's sharing jokes with, and of course she sounds beautiful.

I'd been wondering how well her songs would translate to being played on a solo guitar, but her accompaniest Charlie Cawood is an incredible player, and makes it all work: on just one acoustic guitar he makes you forget that Touching needs a string quartet and Romance needs a grand piano.

Those are the only two Iamthemorning songs, and Mermaid Song is the only thing from the Sleepwalking Music album. The other four songs in her short set are unknown to me, so they're either new, or she's got other music hidden away somewhere that I've managed to miss. So, sorry, but I can't give you the titles. I should have asked her afterwards, but I was too shy to say anything sensible when she spoke to me. They could even be covers, but the lyrics sounded like "Marjana" lyrics.

And that's Marjana's biggest weapon, of course: not her voice, her writing. Anyone that can write words that can affect me the way Touching or Mermaid Song do is always going to be worth listening to.

In Danny Cavanagh's set he called Marjana on stage to sing three songs with him. I'm sorry to say I don't know Anathema's music very well at all (this is probably really surprising for an Iamthemorning fan, but it's true, I really don't know very much modern prog) so I might be wrong about the song titles, but I think: Everwake, Untouchable Part 2, and Natural Disaster. They all sounded great to me, and I don't think that any Anathema fans in the audience sounded disappointed. And it was really nice to hear the banter between Danny and Marjana on stage, and the feeling of respect and admiration that was flowing both ways between them. And the feeling that Marjana must be the happiest person in the world at that moment.

And though I don't feel able to review Danny Cananagh's set properly, I will say: he impressed me immensely, both with his music and with the way he can hold a crowd in the palm of his hand.

But I came to see Marjana tonight, and I was not disappointed. The set was only 25 minutes long and of course I'd wish for longer, but those 25 minutes (and three bonus Anathema songs!) were worth the trip here. Best 25 minutes I've ever seen.