Holt Festival: Holt, UK, July 25, 2012
Yates' poems are often complex, both structurally and textually: not always easy to understand at first hearing. So it was particularly pleasing, as well as a credit to Tobin, that the near sell-out crowd was attentive to the last note even during the uncharacteristically apocalyptic instrumental break on "The Second Coming"a surprising contrast to the gently reflective mood of most of the set that caught more than one audience member unawares.
Ian Shaw And Liane Carroll
Shaw and Carroll are regular collaborators onstage. Over the course of two sets they shared the spotlight with equanimity in a show that moved easily between moments of pure comedy and periods of heart-rending emotion.
Shaw (pictured right) has a particular love of the songs of lyricist Fran Landesman. A longterm friend of Landesman and her family, Shaw has championed her work for many years. He arrived on stage resplendent in stylish open-toed sandals and cheerfully informed the audience that he'd forgotten to bring his shoes before opening the set, with deliberate or accidental irony, with Landesman's "Feet Do Your Stuff." Shaw sang the witty, cheeky lyrics and played Simon Wallace's music with real punch, getting the audience onside from the off. By contrast, his second Landesman song, "Ballad of the Sad Young Men," with music by Tommy Wolf, was a masterly performance of one of the great songs of regret. The crowd remained hushed throughout; a pin dropping would've sounded like an explosion.
Carroll shares Shaw's emotional range: upbeat and laugh-out-loud funny one minute, heartbreaking the next. She sang a rousing, positive version of "What Now My Love?" and swung through Donald Fagen's "Walk Between The Raindrops" and "Goodbye Look." Her performance of Tom Waits' "Take It With Me" was stunning; her phrasing and intonation on the key linek, "I never felt more alive... or alone," was perfectly judged.
As a duo, Shaw and Carroll have an easy relationship: funny, intuitive engaging. During "I Can't Give You Anything But Love," which Shaw started on piano, the pair ambled casually around the stage scatting, laughing and eventually changing places as Carroll took over the keyboard to end the tune and the set. Calls for an encore brought the pair back to duet on James Taylor's "You've Got a Friend," the lyrics capturing the relationship between these two remarkable performers perfectly.
All three performers were obviously emotionally engaged with their source material, all had striking onstage presences and an easy relationship with their audience. In keeping with the tone of most of Yeats' poems, Tobin's approach to the performance was serious and respectful, though her between-song chat was lighthearted and amusing. Shaw and Carroll (pictured left) had a much more relaxed attitude; a seemingly casual devil-may-care style that they carried off with aplomb and which worked because of their exceptional talent and professionalism. It takes skill and hard work to make it look that easy.
Holt Festival looks set to grow and develop under the stewardship of Astley and his team. It receives no financial assistance from central government, the Arts Council or any other national body, relying instead on income from ticket sales and on the generosity of local sponsors, so careful programming is essential. Audience numbers, their attentiveness and the warmth of their responses to all of the performers suggest that Astley and his team would do well to delve further into the wealth of UK jazz talent for future festivals.
All Photos: Bruce Lindsay