She’s got blue hair, luv. Eliza Carthy has more than that of course, starting with stage presence.
A folky lady from northern climes, she comes across as the Tetley Tea Folks’ unruly teenager who ran away from home to join a circus. With a backing band topped off with an accordianist/keyboard player who sports a wing-collared, very loud and spotty shirt to accompany his velvet jacket and clown-like stage movements while all the time inspiring awe at his every keystroke, we could for a moment be forgiven for thinking Gerry Cottle rather than Joan Baez. But together with an electric violinist, a drummer, a bassist and two more Tetley Tea Folk on backing vocals/guitar/random percussion, here was a homely sight in need of a brew.
However, back to Ms Carthy. She plays a guitar with four strings, a guitar with six strings, an electro-acoustic fiddle and a fully fledged electric fiddle. She writes good tunes. She sings rather excellently. Ms Baez is a confirmed fan and it isn’t difficult to see why. Her set swings from new songs, written since the current album, ‘Angels and Cigarettes’, to older songs which have a simpler feel to them – and they are all rather good. Unlike even some of the best folk acts, Eliza Carthy doesn’t do duff tunes.
Her between-songs stories are told like all the best Yorkshire stories are, in a random, endearing way and with absolutely no point to them, which on three occasions she admits to, but the audience love her anyway. The only shame is that the audience are mostly seated on the unusually clean Dingwalls floor rather than moshing about on it, but no-one seems to want to make the first move to start some folksy dance routines. Eliza doesn’t seem to mind and is instead amazed that so many people have come to see her – this reception was apparently rather larger than what she’d received on her last visit to Camden.
She plots a road between folk and pop, but overwhelmingly, despite being signed to one of the big five, Eliza Carthy seems to have done her best to “keep it real”, if such a thing is possible. She was even ‘aving a pint at bar before the gig, by ‘eck!