Joana Serrat brings her ‘Tug of War’ LP to Manchester

Last weekend, Joana Serrat kicked off her miniature UK tour in the quaint setting of Gullivers in Manchester. Gullivers is an Irish bar that has been hosting live music for nearly half a century, complete with two live venues under its roof. Serrat’s tour kicked off in the small function room below the larger venue room, promising an intimate gig that allowed only a select group of people to spectate.. Another gig was occurring upstairs and for a small moment there was a fear that the acoustic artists wouldn’t be able to hold their own against the booming vibrations from upstairs. But as Gulliver’s first guest, Kate Ashton-Butler, approached the stage and began her first number ‘A Pint of Blood’, the room became separated from the outside world, leaving just Kate and her multitalented accomplice (Dickon Kyme-Wright), to delight the audience with her fitting modal folk tunes to Gulliver’s aesthetic.

As Kate moved on to a catchy mandolin accompanied ‘Melting Moon’ with Dickon picking up an array of instruments from clarinet to double bass to assist, it became increasingly evident was how likeable Kate’s DIY attitude towards her music and image was. Despite her outstanding vocals, lyricism and presence she remained modest and polite throughout, continuing down her Irish theme with ‘The Garden’, and the undeniably catchy ‘Maisonside’. Her songs represent a sophisticated and knowledgeable conception of the world, a surprising feat for such a young artist.   As the young singer-songwriter left the stage the small collective praised Kate for her subjugation of the audiences hearts, as her melodies and songs unwittingly lingered in the minds.

After a quick interval, the small room once again became hushed as Joana Serrat took to the small platform. Usually armed with an entire backing band, the acclaimed songwriter chose to play with only a guitar, replicating her entire album ‘Cross the Verge’ with a lone and sombre vibe. After a delightful introduction she quickly commissioned the start of her tour with ‘Lonely Heart Reverb’ and ‘Flags’, two tracks with a hypnotic delay and reverb on the guitars that just barely allows Serrats vocals to trickle through the layers of sound. Joana is one of a few musicians whose messages and songs can stand alone, without the support of a full backing band. Her songs send a message of vulnerability, and lost love, for cities and people, and the live rendition of her full produced album can easily stand on its own. Infact the exposed performance of her album creates an unheard interpretation to her singles like ‘Tug of War’ and ‘The Garden’.

Serrat’s show continued with simplicity; as she moved onto her previous album’s songs ‘The Blizzard’ and ‘The Secret’. The singer’s craft is reliant on small nuances, like subtle reverb and unnoticeable dynamic changes, that become all the more obvious given the set up, allowing the small audience to intently focus on every aspect of her performance. On the other end of the spectrum Joana transforms full band arrangements like ‘Black Lake’ and ‘Lover’ into delicate masterpieces. The small breaks she made within her set her only separated by praise for the audience and stories of her excitement and her encore was extended to five songs, all due to the sheer power and likeability the young artist commands on the stage.

Rounding off the night with the album titled tracks ‘Dear Great Canyon’ and ‘Cross the Verge’, Serrat allows her sound to be opened up, singling out two of her previous leading tracks and reserving them as a parting gift and comparison to the entire set. Despite her multiple endeavours and promising career it is clear Joana Serrat has found a formula for success in both her live and recorded sounds, and is one of a few artists to be able to mould her unique image and sound into whatever medium she desires.

‘Tug of War’ is available now via Loose Records.

This Joana Serrat article was written by John Gittins, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson. Bottom photo by indiespots

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