Ainslie Henderson’s debut album Growing Flowers By Candlelight is a medley of heartache and despair, a thoughtful, quietly delicate record.
Live, Edinburgh-based Ainslie is a charming storyteller and an exquisite improviser. A regular in Edinburgh’s laid back coffee houses, tonight on his home turf the sometime Fame Academy star is joined by a violinist and a very appreciative audience in the atmospheric Henry’s Cellar Bar.
The makeshift stage is outlined with fairy lights and the audience are sitting on the floor, huddled round waiting for something magical. But a technical glitch begins the show – the DJ is unable to turn off his music despite the performers gracing the stage. Ainslie therefore takes to the floor with an expressive dance routine that gains him the attention from people who are unsure what to expect.
Technical hitches continue into the first song as the small stage forces the performers to sit too close to their equipment. But this simply spurs Ainslie to improvise his lyrics and lighten the mood rather than panic under the pressure. As another eerie squeal interrupts his beautiful song Dust, Ainslie cries out “turn the microphone off for the glockenspiel” as if it were part of the song, reducing violinist Poppy to giggles.
He dares to cover Arctic Monkeys‘ I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, turning it into an acoustic wonder and giving it soul. He turns his ability to improvise into another hilarious sketch when he substitutes his absent second guitarist’s part with a mouth trumpet solo. Only Ainslie could pull this off and have the crowd laughing and trumpeting along with him.
Behind the jokes and story telling, Ainslie’s performance is touching and emotional. There are a few tears in the audience as the lyrics float their way into the hearts of many. He spices up heart-felt number Fail so the crowd smile at the familiar line “we’re not just friends and we’re not quite lovers”.
And then he offers a tale of friendship. His story is accompanied by a stunning new track and a couple more poignant numbers before the set draws to a close. Listening to Ainslie’s album is a beautiful experience, but it doesn’t capture his unique stage presence – an emotional ride, with tears and laughter along the way.