Quality to the fore at busy live music weekend

Eleanor McEvoy in concert in the crypt beneath Mount Stuart's Marble Chapel on Friday.
Eleanor McEvoy in concert in the crypt beneath Mount Stuart's Marble Chapel on Friday.

ELEANOR McEVOY is best known for her 1992 hit Only A Woman’s Heart, the lead song on a compilation which became the best-selling Irish album of all time.

But from the moment the Dublin-born singer-songwriter bounded on to the stage on Friday night at the first in the new ‘Concerts in the Crypt’ series at Mount Stuart, it was clear, to anyone who didn’t already realise it, that Ms McEvoy is much, much more than a one hit wonder.

Almost 20 years of writing and performing have given her a rich seam to choose from for her live shows, and at Friday’s intimate concert she wasted no time sharing her versatility and talent.

Others might have balked at the notion of including a song called You’ll Hear Better Songs Than This – based in part on one of Shakespeare’s sonnets – so early in her set, but in this case it simply sounded like a challenge, a high water mark which was met and often exceeded throughout the evening.

Mood swings, it seems, are an essential aspect of any Eleanor McEvoy concert; the jaunty Non Smoking Single Female, born out of a brief obsession with lonely hearts columns, was swiftly followed by the heartbreaking Sophie, used across the world to treat people suffering from anorexia, and then by a wonderfully original cover version of Bob Dylan’s Just Like A Woman.

There was plenty of instrumental variety, too: her set may have started and finished to the sound of a simple acoustic guitar, but in between accompaniment was provided by keyboard, electric guitar, violin (both plucked and bowed) – and even by a box of matches!

Unsurprisingly, Only A Woman’s Heart got the loudest cheer of the night, even if, sandwiched between the throaty blues of The Way You Wear Your Troubles and a cover of Nick Lowe’s I Knew The Bride When She Used To Rock And Roll, its musical context felt a little incongruous.

But to grumble about that is really to split hairs, for this was a memorable gig, by a superbly talented artist, in a fantastic setting, which will live long in the memories of those lucky enough to be there.

* Meanwhile, it may be a long way from the heady heights of the ‘Madchester’ era and a headline slot in front of 80,000 at the Reading Festival to a wet October night in Rothesay.

But Tom Hingley – who, as lead singer of The Inspiral Carpets, was right at the forefront of the Manchester-dominated indie music scene of the late 80s and early 90s – has lost none of his writing or performing ability, and though his audience at the Victoria Hotel on Saturday may have been slightly smaller than he was used to in the Inspirals’ heyday, neither his efforts nor his listeners’ enjoyment were any the worse for it.

His Rothesay set combined some of the Inspirals’ best-known hits with the solo material he has penned since the band first split in 2003 (they later reunited, but Hingley departed for a second time earlier this year), and began with some minimalist blues, including John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom, before moving on to some of the Inspirals’ best-known and best-selling works, including This Is How It Feels, the band’s first UK top 20 hit in the spring of 1990, Dragging Me Down, and the more downbeat Move, which nonetheless was ideal for showing off the power of his voice.

His solo work showed off his more tender side, most notably through a tribute to his father, who died earlier this year, and to his 15-year-old daughter; but every song, whether an Inspirals track or a solo creation, was greeted with enthusiasm by an audience who didn’t seem to mind his ceaseless battle with possibly the most recalcitrant guitar ever seen at a live gig...