On 10th October 2004 at 09:05 Dave LMS wrote...
Madeleine Brooks plays at Love Apple in Bradford on Sunday October 17th.
Live at Jug & Barrel on Thursday, 7th October 2004
"Prepare yourselves for a textured sound," chuckled Madeleine Brooks in sympathy for the audience's predicament as well as her own. It was her reaction to a faulty pickup connection ripping through the sound check each time her guitar moved. The problem never quite went away, nor did the bizarre stage lighting of four ploddingly sequenced colour spots, but what came out of this unpromising setting was an evening to impress a steadily increasing audience.
And this was a show that nearly fell apart even before it got on the road. Thanks to the hazards of his day job as a plasterer, support artist Gareth Scott (of the duo 'The Lights') was without his favourite guitar-fingernail for his solo half hour of his own songs plus a Nick Harper cover. Unfair conditions for judgment, when his voice though good was over-amped, a frequent handicap in this resonator of a room; and with his clear ability he might have done better with more variety of feel and tempo.
The remarkable if accident-prone Madeleine Brooks had the rest of the gig, having hardly recovered from a head over heels flyer while tackling that notorious Pennine challenge, crossing the road in Hebden Bridge while starting out for this booking. Even her straight-forward surname is subject to a rich variety of misspellings in publicity. Now, to the sound of a snarling PA she took up her guitar and though performing a little stiffly in her first two or three tunes (as she calls them), was sounding smooth and solid by the time she got to 'Siren', and in perfect fettle for the gorgeous 'Calling Time'. This song ended a very full first set and is the highlight of her first showing on CD, five songs recorded live a few days ago at Stubbings Wharf (Hebden Bridge again).
What was meant to be a ten-minute break became a sprawling void. Such a lapse tests whether an audience is under the performer's spell, and there were still plenty to play to and receive prolonged applause from at the end of an evening which, under far from perfect conditions, demonstrated those strong natural show business instincts Madeleine Brooks has in her. And not only in the writing, playing and singing: her anecdotes, musings, and responses to the moment or to contact with the audience can be fine entertainment in themselves, so for anyone who has a taste for wayward comparisons here's a thought - if you have ever seen the masterly Goole-Irish trio 'Last Night's Fun', just think of Mr Sherburn on concertina chatting away between numbers and, unlikely though it seems, you've got a hint of what it can be like witnessing Maddy Brooks being her own MC.
The verdict is go see her, and be ready for those increasingly frequent moments when the singer who's made you feel so relaxed with her local ways suddenly has you reacting as if you were in the presence of an international talent.