Cara Dillon
at the Pacific Arts Centre,
Birkenhead, Wirral, UK
(24 September 2003)

Having seen Cara Dillon live at the Middlewich Festival 2002 with just two musicians, it was great to see her now in concert accompanied by a full band of five musicians. With a brand new album, Sweet Liberty, just released, this greatly enhanced the material at her disposal. A real strength of the gig was the unity of the listening experience as one song effortlessly flowed into the next.

Cara's voice was wonderful throughout -- hers is one of the best on the current music scene and she is supported superbly by Sam Lakeman's lyrical keyboard playing. The other four musicians tended to play more in the background as befits the nature of the songs. Ben Nicholls (bass and double bass), Liam Bradey (drums and percussion), Paul Casey (guitar) and James O'Grady (uilleann pipes, whistle and fiddle) all played their part in creating a quality concert. In a number of songs, Cara started out just accompanied by keyboard, and sometimes guitar too, before the rest of the band made a considerable impact when they eventually joined in.

One of the most moving songs was "There Were Roses," as heard on Billy Connolly's televised World Tour of England, Ireland and Wales. Cara and Sam were in their element in this song. "Black is the Colour" provided a more expansive sound with the whole band in good form. A highlight from the first half was "She's Like the Swallow" with a characteristically quiet and mellow start leading to an upbeat middle section before returning to a quieter conclusion.

I was disappointed with the generally muted response from the audience through the gig. It was not until the last song that their appreciation became really apparent; before then the atmosphere was somewhat subdued and much less than Cara deserved. I would like to see Cara perform somewhere in the North West like Manchester Academy 3 with its ability to attract a younger and livelier audience that her music deserves to reach. The Pacific Arts Centre is a pleasantly relaxed venue, however, especially when set out with tables as for this gig, but there are clearly some problems with the acoustics as the sound gets lost somewhere and this does not help to create the right atmosphere.

There was an amusing touch in the second half when the song "Where Are You" was addressed to bass player Ben who had arrived late at the gig and had to join the band in the middle of the song! He made up for his mistake though with some expressive playing on "The Gem of the Roe." The concert concluded very strongly. Near to the end, "High Tide" featured some excellent drumming by Liam and Cara's voice had a real Kate Bush-type edge to it. The concluding song, "Green Grows the Laurel," was excitingly upbeat (and my favourite of the night) and inspired a warm reaction from the audience at last. The encore, "The Emigrant's Farewell," was a fitting song with which to say goodbye and again very well received.

- Rambles
written by Andy Jurgis
published 29 November 2003

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