I'd been looking forward to The Mojo Fins Old Market show for weeks, so it was a great disappointment when I saw online that band were being forced to pull out due to illness. It was a shame as I hadn't seen the group play live in a long time – I was eager to see them in such an elegant setting and hopeful we'd be hearing some of the new material they've reportedly been working on. Luckily the line-up for the night was so strong I wasn't perturbed, and judging from the excellent turnout few people were: extended sets from Apples & Eve and Shona Foster were still a very enticing proposition. I even spotted the uncontaminated members of The Mojo Fins sitting in the front row enjoying the entertainment!
I’d really been looking forward to catching opening act Apples & Eve, having recently caught their BBC Introducing radio session, which sounded fabulous. They opened their set confidently with the title track from their recently released 'Dionysius' EP. Apples & Eve are an excellent live band built around the duo of Eva Rose (accordion, acoustic guitar, lead vocals) and Francine Perry (drums, acoustic guitar, backing vocals). They are backed with classic instrumentation (double bass, violin and a lead electric guitar) and play a classy atmospheric take on alternative folk. Stand out tracks for me on the evening included EP tracks 'L'Homme' and ‘Creatures of The Sea’. ‘L’Homme’ conjures up a mystical fantasy world with its beautiful picked guitars, fantastic fiddle licks, insistent shuffle and uplifting harmonies. The reggae-tinged 'Creatures of The Sea' came towards the end of the set, holding the audience on tenterhooks with extended false endings which repeatedly drew us back in to the groove. I recommend you check these guys out live at the next possible occasion and pick up a copy of their EP – I'm expecting big things from them next year.
Next up was Shona Foster, playing with a more stripped back setup than I am used to seeing from her. Shona sang and played a classical acoustic guitar backed by pianist Matthew Gest and guitarist Chris Otero (who I recently reviewed as the front-man of MynieMoe). Shona opened the set with ‘No. 34’ from her debut album ‘The Moon and You’ a song which is still echoing round my head almost a week later! ‘No. 34’ is one of my favourites on the record, so it is a tribute to the song-writing that it holds up so well with the stripped back line-up, as do all of the familiar tracks in the set. The effect is intimate and intense, getting right to the heart of the songs and showcasing Shona’s incredible voice… you could literally hear a pin drop.
The front half of her set was dominated by a batch of promising new songs; one, which I am desperate to hear again, had a haunting Latin feel to it leading. Intentions’ It will be interesting to see if this more stripped back approach remains when they record her next album, as it certainly had a powerful affect on the audience tonight. Later in the set we’re treated to more familiar songs ‘Oh Patience’ sounds lush, with superb backing vocals from the boys in the band and set closer ‘Bad Intentions’ brings the house down. There were a few technical difficulties, the sound engineers struggled to get Otero’s backing vocals in the monitors and the lighting, atmospheric as it may have be, became so dark at one point Shona couldn’t read her set-list! Any troubles were borne with good humour and professionalism and it was no surprise that the audience called them back for on more tune. ‘Collision’, the closing track from ‘The Moon and You’ is a haunting piano ballad that brings to mind a romantic stormy sea. Shona’s heart-wrenching vocal delivery sends shivers up my spine and I find myself completely lost in the music a beautiful ending to a wonderful evening.
We’re told The Mojo Fins will be re-scheduling their performance at The Old Market for early in the New Year. On the strength of tonight’s show that one is going to be unmissable!