Gemma Hayes at Bush Hall
“Louis Walsh had only two prerequisites to working with me. I stop writing my own songs and I start dating a celebrity. Needless to say, I’m not working with Louis Walsh!” As Gemma Hayes coyly relates this anecdote mid-way through her set at Bush Hall to a full audience of enraptured listeners, there’s a real humility and charm to her attitude, combined with the inherent cheeky glint associated with the Irish.
A delicate physical presence on stage, she plays the sort of alternative folk pop that sounds uplifting even when it’s sad. Her music is simple in its construction, as it never really deviates from melody-rich verses and choruses, and is emotive in its performance. If KT Tunstall, Crowded House or The Beautiful South don’t offend your audio palate, then Gemma Hayes is the artist for you. It’s never going to pull the carpet out from under you, but it’s Sunday afternoon-listening defined.
Straight from the start, she oozes a likeable charm and a magnetic charisma. Though an extremely confident and adept singer, her voice has a frailty to it that masks how much of a powerhouse she actually is. Her range is rather impressive too: during a melancholic cover of Chris Isaak’s classic Wicked Game she not only hits “that” note, but sustains it without turning blue in the face.
She exudes a great sense of humility, rattling off little anecdotes and interacting with crowd between songs, and displaying a self-deprecating sense of humour that’s at odds with her clear abilities. She genuinely comes across as a likeable, down-to-earth performer still a little taken aback by the success she’s found in the music world.
The audience were extremely vocal in their support of the material; every song was prefaced with a whoop of delight from the assembled fans. Newer material, like the gentle yet relentless Shock to my System sat alongside older songs (and judging from the sounds of approval, firm fan favourites) like 4.35am.
Some minor technical issues with the otherwise flawless sound brought a cover of Kate Bush’s Cloudbursting to a grinding halt, but a second attempt cheered on by the crowd resolved any issues.
A captivating performance from a captivating performer, there was a real sense of respect, reverence and, above all, joy floating through the room. Gemma finishes the Louis Walsh anecdote by saying: “We’ll see how that decision pans out when I’m 65!” to which one lady in the crowd yells back, her voice full of conviction, “We’ll still be here!”
Photo: Something for Kate
Watch the video for Keep Running here: