Charm Of Finches – The Met, Bury – 30th April 2022
The promise of haunting tunes about love, grief and whispering trees trumps the opportunities for cheap drinks in the centre of Bury on a Saturday night. It probably couldn’t be further from Melbourne, Australia really. The sight of a couple of revellers decked out in Bury Pride regalia and having a go at climbing the Victora Wood (local celebrity comedienne) statue in town was an unusual if slightly surreal prelude.
Having said that, an evening with Ivy and Mabel sounds like it could be straight out of a Victoria Wood sketch. Observed and played beautifully by Victoria herself and Julie Walters. Maybe two old dears appearing in an episode of Acorn Antiques or having a blue rinsed conversation over tea and scones. Bear with us while the meandering thoughts of a lunatic segue perfectly into the main topic. For Ivy and Mabel ARE in Bury. They’re at The Met, in the guise of the ‘impossibly young to be into their third album’ Charm Of Finches. And they’re not fresh from collecting their pensions but over from Australia on a dream fulfilling European and British Isles jaunt with their dreamy Indie Folk music.
We knew all along, of course, having very much appreciated their Wonderful Oblivion album. Our man Seuras Og called it “a truly remarkable record” and also gave us the opportunity to reference how, like policemen, these remarkably talented musicians that drop by our concert venues, seem to be ever so younger. It’s that album that provides the bulk of the set – or two sets with intermission, retail opportunity and cake; yes! cake! presumably not from the merch desk with the CDs (and the final T shirt in the shop which maybe a medium man has picked up by now). That and a selection from 2019’s Your Company (award winning we might add) album that should be an essential purchase for anyone whose first encounter with Ivy and Mabel has been with Wonderful Oblivion.
There ‘s a story of how it was recorded in the Australian lockdown, under blankets, in a tiny bedroom, but that picture adds to the general air of intimacy that the sisters create. And talking of fashion, the girls enthuse about the delights of our charity shops and vintage stores. Their image adds an essential visual aspect to the songs which errs toward the darker side without getting too Death/Black Metal. Decked out, not in Bury Pride rainbow colours, but flowing chiffon or some other similar fabric. Haute couture isn’t our strong point At The Barrier.
There’s enough switcheroo-ing between instruments to vary the musical pallet, but you’re guaranteed that whenever Ivy picks up the fiddle and bow, the melancholy needle starts to bob perilously toward the red. Instrumental prowess aside, whatever the theme of the songs, those harmonies could only possibly come from a duo who have a blood connection. As Mabel creates sofly finger picked background, her sister weaves the stories, eyes closed while casting and teasing the words out into the air like a dreamy spell in As A Child. Perhaps playing out the disappointment at not receiving the call to Hogwarts at the age of eleven…
While we get the best of Oblivion/Company, there’s even a new song; so new it’s untitled and although the familiarity with the new songs is strong, the unveiling of the Your Comapny songs proves a revelation. Paint Me A Picture and The Bridge will be on repeat for sure. They ask in Where Do The Ducks Go? “how do I stop my mind going places I don’t want it to go?” – typical of the nature of the songwriting inspiration which doesn’t always come from bright and sunny places. The latter is delivered in a quiet but hypnotically paced pieceand Ivy talks up how Her Quiet Footsteps acts as a sort of songwriting therapy in encountering and facing up to traumatic events.
We may have namechecked Kate Bush and Neil Young in our Wonderful Oblivion review, but after tonight, we can maybe add a hint of those other local heroes, Elbow to the mix. Gravity from the new album, performed in Bury, conjures up Guy Garvey singing those same words – “wild dreams of a future” – accompanied by a tumble of acoustic notes from one Potter while the other Potter (no – not another Hogwarts reference…) adds the occasional keyboard accent.
Ending with what we called the “soothing but unsettling” title track of the new album, it’s also introduced as “an uplifting lullaby about death.” Good to know we were on point. Inspired by the Six Feet Under TV show and possibly by the revelation that dad Windred-Wornes is an undertaker, it’s an easy drifter of a song yet and a delicately emotional rumination about “when it’s our time, we’ll float into the light.” It leaves us to contemptae how the Finches manage to achieve the balance between despair and hope.
They return with their favourite Leonard Cohen song. Several shout out (incorrect) suggestions – “not that one …not that either!” and we’re tempted to test the water and call for Now We Take Manhattan but the Famous Blue Raincoat gets lifted from the hanger and given the Ivy & Mabel treatment. It completes a night where the promise of the music we’ve heard them make and commit to a record sees them take off in the live setting. The prospect of their return for more local shows (compared to Australia, most places in the UK might seem local) to Manchester on 24th July and Saltaire on 31st July will have not only us, but the thrift shop holders rubbing their hands with glee.
Categories: Live Reviews