Vashti Bunyan and The Cedar, reflection

Local band, the Cedar, were already on stage and singing when I arrived late on Thursday night. I was kindly instructed to wait at the door, go up the stairs, wait at the back and then go forward when there was a song break. I was touched by the care the St George’s team took to ensure that the band was not disturbed although the group on stage seemed to have no problem with noise and interaction. Their banter was inclusive and almost pleading in its need to get involved. How many countries are there in the world, Emma asked and when someone called out 200, Neil was on hand to wonder at the aggressive tone. 200 exactly she laughed? and why not I wondered. We later found out about Neil’s birthday (09 April 2010) and his turning 30. Emma arrived from Canada recently and attempted to create a history for St George’s while Neil tuned his guitar.

Such a boisterous little band who I had last seen play in the same hall over a year ago at the Acoustic Music Festival (18 January 2009). No lost hamster underneath the fridge freezer and no mentions of a nephew this time. Their energy seemed slightly out of place on a quiet Thursday night but the music slowly won out over the need to entertain and make us respond. Strong vocals from Neil were accompanied by Emma on violin, and the two Bens on drums and bass guitar.

Vashti Bunyan’s musical career began in the early 1960s and it was through happenstance and luck that she was back in the music scene we were told. Her first song was a love song called Hidden [spotify link]

I hear you, I do know you very well and our time will tell if I read you right, she sings but I find it hard to pick up her words from underneath the guitar and the violin. Everything is so soft that I have to strain to hear. Soft. Whispering. As if around a camp fire or a living room.

A smile accompanies the frequent references to her age and the years between songs. Just Another Diamond Day is introduced as a song written when she thought life was much simpler. She doesn’t think so any more and it feels like a pity. Winter is blue, a heartbreak song when she thought she knew better. ‘Lately’ because it is more recent. There’s a song for her children. I’m glad she explains the music beforehand because I can’t hear many of the lyrics.

I don’t mind though as the night is beautiful, the music magical and haunting and the acoustics provide the loveliest atmosphere I’ve been lost in for a while. The acoustics so impressed the Cedar that Neil wanted all of us to join in as well. We were encouraged to sing our names to the sound of an F# and then to name our favourite colours. While I appreciate knowing that Neil’s was blue I would not have been unhappy with just the music which was beautifully done. The performances pulled us along from vibrant and commanding and on to plaintive, nostalgic and haunting, leaving an enraptured crowd demanding an encore. Love, heartbreak and the need to travel were touched upon at St George’s and then let go with the last song Goodbye. It was a lovely night and the venue’s acoustics were as amazing as Neil suggested.

Event information discovered on Bristol Culture.

St George’s Bristol, Great George Street, Off Park Street, Bristol BS1 5RR http://www.stgeorgesbristol.co.uk/ , Box office: 0845 40 24 001

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