Aoife O’Donovan Live in Belfast

Aoife O'Donovan returns to Belfast to play an enthralling and much anticipated concert.

Aoife O'Donovan

The Black Box, Belfast

Third time’s the charm, and so it proved for an enthralled audience at the Black Box. Postponed twice due to the pandemic, Aoife treated an enthralled audience to a superb evening of chilled, thoughtful introspection.

This is ‘lean in’ music at its finest.  From the evocatively sensual ‘Apple Tree’, to a stirring rendition of ‘The Lakes of Ponchartrain’, Aoife delivered a near faultless performance that charmed and beguiled in equal measure.  Her voice is an instrument of great versatility, able to deliver a strong, almost husky, delivery, alternating to a light nigh ethereal vocal, the easy mix and transfer is a sheer joy.

Drawing largely on her recent excellent album, ‘The Age of Apathy’ with some cuts from her two previous albums, and a few well-chosen covers, the evening gently passes in a blur.

The new songs, stripped-down are among the strongest of the Bostonian’s career. On the Record, acclaimed artist in his own right, Joe Henry does a sterling job of producing, allowing the songs to flow with little embellishment over a quietly lush soundscape. ‘Sister Starling’, with it’s deliciously theatrical end, is worth the cost on its own.

Short of such studio embellishments, the songs still shine, passing the real test of quality song writing.

‘Red & White & Blue & Gold’ is filled with romantic memories and pictures, and tonight is exquisitely delivered

Come on, lie next to me, I’ll sing you to sleep, I’ll sing you to sleep,

There’s a band on the boardwalk, you’re tapping your feet

But I’m too tired to dance

Black and blue all on my face

I wanna follow you home, I wanna see your place

I wanna take you in my arms and float down a river with you

I wanna buy the farm

Much unconscious swaying in the audience as people are caught in the moment, and the sheer exuberance of the song.

On stage, Aoife displays a real charm as she regales the crowd with tales of earlier debauched nights in Belfast, and real-life survival tales in airports, lost guitar (thankfully retrieved), and luggage.

An avowed fan of Bruce Springsteen, a stirring version of The Boss’s ‘Open all Night’ from his Nebraska album is a great addition to the set-list, and helps vary the pace of the proceedings.  ‘Iowa’, co-written with Donovan Woods, is delivered in the softest tones, allowing the listener to revel in lines such as ‘I’m waiting on this book to get good, I do not have your patience.’

Having successfully extricated herself from stored amps and band gear at the side of the stage on completion of her set, she returns for a faithful rendition of crowd-pleaser ‘The lakes of Ponchartrain’. She relates that she saw Paul Brady watch her band Crooked Still from the bar, and wasn’t able to tell if from his taciturn expression, if he enjoyed their set or not, but at least he stayed to the end.

No such reticence from the audience tonight, and I’m sure Mr. Brady would have applauded too, had he been at this excellent gig!