Rachael Dadd at St Pancras Old Church
Entering the graveyard of St Pancras Old Church, this reviewer pondered the lack of expectation invested in the concert ahead, being quite unaware until now of the Bristol-based singer-songwriter Rachael Dadd. Was there about to be some kind of Pussy Riot-esque subversity or would, as first impressions appeared to suggest, the most blasphemous act lie in little more than the audience swigging from cans of sacrilegious Stella?
The setting of the gig, in allegedly the first parish church built in London, is integral as it seems from the very start that Dadd’s music is custom-made for such surroundings. The natural reverb of the intimate nave lends real depth and ambience to Dadd’s breathy and at times idiosyncratic vocals – an amalgam of Lisa Hannigan and Anna Calvi – which are complemented well by some exquisite dual harmonies.
Switching between ukulele, piano and banjo, Dadd’s effortless musicianship in the crafting of these intriguing melodies and syncopated rhythms shines through. Languid synths and the low notes of a clarinet underpin the skittish percussion, yet at one point the sparse synergy between jangly piano and propulsive hand-claps stands apart in terms of experimental effectiveness.
Despite the obvious ability of Dadd and her band, and the almost weightless nature of some songs, they never quite manage to take flight to superlative heights. The somewhat limited range of tempo and dynamic becomes apparent even over just an hour-long set. That said, Bounce the Ball is a real highlight, its beauty lying in the sheer simplicity around which the music is orchestrated. The most inspired element of it all, though, is the utilisation of a steelpan, that far from saturating the soundscape serves as a shimmering scree across which the rhythm section and Dadd’s vocals could glide so effortlessly.
The show itself was engaging if not exemplary, with the intimate setting doing much to enhance the atmosphere; dancing shadows cast into the apse by orange candles gave the impression of a primitive light show. Overall, Rachael Dadd is an artist well worth exploring, with a joyous and enigmatic air to many songs that hint at hidden depths to be discovered over repeated listens.
Photos: Adam Bennett
For further information about Rachael Dadd and future events visit here.
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