Concert Review

Emily Barker gives Stroud a Dark Murmuration of Words and much more

Emily Barker, whose latest album A Dark Murmuration of Words was released in September 2020, played the second of her two-date “tour” at the Subscription Room, Stroud on 9th April.  A home gig for her and her band, Emily was happy to tell everyone she got to sleep in her own bed that night.

For those not familiar with Emily Barker, she is an award-winning singer-songwriter, best known as the writer and performer of Nostalgia, the theme song of BBC’s Wallander. She also wrote and performed Pause, which became the theme song of the BBC2 crime drama The Shadow Line.

Boo Hewerdine and Lady Nade – photo by Claire Stones

Support was in the form of Lady Nade and Boo Hewerdine, with the former playing a small set alone before the two did a few numbers together, and then Boo performed alone.  Both sang lovely songs, and did what you hope the support slot will do – get you to listen to more of their music/buy one of their CDs.  

For those of you thinking the name Boo Hewerdine is familiar, one of his songs – Bell, Book and Candle –  was used when they “killed Prue” in the original Charmed, and during the “Trisha Dingle incident” in Emmerdale. He also wrote Patience of Angels, which became a hit for Eddi Reader.

Emily, complete with Lukas Drinkwater on basses, Pete Roe on keys (amongst other instruments), Rob Pemberton on drums, Emily Hall on violin, and Misha Law on viola, took to the stage and had the audience’s attention from the off.

Emily Barker – photo by Claire Stones

They played the “new” album pretty much in order, interspersing songs from Emily’s back catalogue and stories of how some of them came to be written/what they’re about.  Included in this was an overview of the theme of the album – Climate Crisis and the associated guilt – along with the inspiration for The Woman Who Planted Trees.  This track was written about Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman who founded the Green Belt Movement, amongst other things.  Following playing Nostalgia, she explained how her “crime duo” (see above) led to her writing the music for Jake Gavin’s duet film Hector, and played one of the songs from it – the lovely Anywhere Away. Emily’s stories added to the enjoyment, giving information about songs many in the audience would not be aware of, and made you feel closer to her.

All the songs played were great, and for those whose introduction to Emily was the latest album, this gig will surely have sent them to check out her back catalogue.  

The songs were arranged and performed beautifully, with highlights being Strange Weather, the banjo on When Stars Cannot Be Found, and the harmonies they achieved bringing everyone on stage for The Blackwood.

Takeaways from the gig – for those who aren’t from Stroud – “What is a cruffin, and do I want to try one?” and “Why is Wangari Maathai not better known?”

Emily Barker with her band – photo by Claire Stones

Emily Barker will be playing a few UK festivals this summer, before heading to the US on tour.

Set List
Return Me
Dear River
The Woman Who Planted Trees
Where Have The Sparrows Gone
Strange Weather
Anywhere Away
Where Stars Cannot Be Found
Any More Goodbyes
Sister Goodbye
Ghost Narrative
The Blackwood

More photos can be found here

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