Ulster Hall, Belfast
24th February 2019

Have you ever been to a gig and just smiled from start to finish? Well for close to two hours that’s what I did. Eddi Reader’s good-humoured effervescence, Scottish wit, and enchanting voice lit up the Ulster Hall with an evening of sublime musicianship, sweet songs and a lot of craic.

Famously, Eddi doesn’t use a set list, but reacts to how she feels on stage and the audience’s response. Such an approach lead to a real flow to the evening as the band effortlessly changed gear and styles at the behest of an ‘entertainer’ at the top of her game.

Leading off with the beautiful ‘My Love Is Like A Red Red Rose’, to audible ‘ahhs’ from the audience, Eddi lead us on a trip through her extensive songbook, and a little amble into her family album.

Songs from her new Album, ‘Cavalier’ blended seamlessly in tone and quality into Reader standards. Eddi Reader “gets” her audience like few other artists I have seen. She jokes and leads us though the genesis of each song.

Part gig, part stand up, part play, the whole mix is a joy to behold. The huge Ulster Hall is transformed into a tiny Glasgow tenement as she re-acts scenes from her childhood and asks the audience to request her mother to sing, as she slips from one character at the party to another. Amidst the playacting and banter, (“Go’wan yersel hen!”), Eddi delivers another jaw-dropping vocal on the Henry Mancini classic ‘Moon River’.

The band has been playing together under various guises for some time now, and it shows. The wonderful ‘Pangur Ban and the Primrose Lass’ with its rollicking lilt highlights the skills of Alan Kelly on accordion. John Douglas’ solo on the essential Reader track, ‘Perfect’ is fantastic, and Boo Hewerdine, the co-writer of such classic tracks as ‘Patience of Angels’, ‘Dragonflies’, and ‘Hummingbird’ is never too far away with sublime harmonies.

The poignant ‘My Favourite Dress’ (written for an aunt of John Douglas, who transforms herself to happy, younger times to escape the horrid thief of people, that is dementia). Perhaps my smile did drop for a while, as the song pulled at the heartstrings, and drew a picture in one’s mind, as vivid as any photo. Poignant and affecting, this really showcased Eddi effortless vocals.

There is a strong case to say that Eddi Reader is the most accomplished British vocal artist of her age. After tonight, I would strongly advocate such a claim. The pop sensibilities of her vocal range go without saying, and the sumptuous high notes are commandeered without a thought. But it is the sheer emotion that is conveyed, that puts her in a league of her own.

Listen to ‘Maid O’ The Loch’ on the new album, and tell me I’m wrong. As with all the best gigs, you check your watch to see if it has stopped. How could two hours have slipped by so fast? As I left the hall, I watched Eddi taking time to meet fans, taking time to chat with everyone, and I reflected on the smiling faces all around… not just my own.

A fantastic evening? Almost “Perfect”!