Eddi Reader
at St. Iberius Church,
Wexford, Ireland (24 February 2012)

In all my concert-going days, I have never experienced the combination of enthusiasm, talent and sheer energy as was exploded in this concert on a quiet Friday night in a former seaport town in the southeast corner of Ireland.

I was not new to Eddi Reader, having been amazed by her excellent album Peacetime, but like all first-time experiences of a live show by a favourite performer, I was apprehensive. The show was part of a short series staged in a still-active Church of Ireland church smack dab in the centre of Wexford's Main Street. Having previously attended operatic and classical recitals in the venue associated with the internationally acclaimed Wexford Festival Opera, I was anxious to see the impact of a folk act here.

From the opening bars, Reader had us mesmerised. Ably backed by two guitars and an accordion, her voice absolutely filled the wonderful performance space. Adding to her wonderful self-confidence, she opened with a relatively unknown track called "Dragonfly," but even so her audience -- a very mixed age profile -- was hers to command.

Her act was not solely music. Like her fellow Scot Billy Connolly, Reader is a natural storyteller, and she was fantastic in drawing this Irish audience into a Saturday night Glasgow "hooley" in her grandfather's house. Playing about six different characters and giving us snatches of the songs sung by each, she had us believing we were there. This also gave her a reason to show her vocal versatility as she roamed from rebel folk to parlour songs and her mother's party piece.

Her introduction to "Bell Book & Candle" from her Angels & Electricity album was equally entertaining and informative as she told how on one domestic Sunday afternoon her vocals and lyrics emanated from the television -- by complete surprise -- as her teenage sons watched the TV series Charmed.

She had feet tapping and hands clapping as the audience joined her on a pop hit from her days with Fairground Attraction called "Perfect" -- and that could be the tag for her performance.

Being a great interpreter of the songs of Robbie Burns she naturally closed with one of his "Aye Waukin-O." This allowed her to indulge once more in her natural wit and humour as she explained the love life of the poet and the background to the song. Singing this beautiful slow song was a gamble for any performer as a closing item but she knew her craft and she carried her adoring audience right to the last note.

An unsung heroine of great music -- not just folk -- gave us a fantastic night out.

by Nicky Rossiter
24 March 2012