Try as I might, I never do understand why it is that some people buy tickets to see a gig, especially an intimate one like this at the cosily tiny Water Rats, and then spend the entire evening jabbering as though their lives depended on it.
“Sssssssshhhhhh!” said the crowd of hardcore shoegazers, Mojave 3 die-hards and other brilliant people. “Jabberjabberjabber” said the jabberers, oblivious to their ignorance.
“I like the ‘ssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhs’,” whispered indie chick Rachel Goswell, almost famously of Slowdive, recently and currently of Mojave 3, tonight taking a centre stage more usually occupied by Neil Halstead in her career thus far. Whoops of joy were heard in echo of her subtle remark as, hands behind back, our headliner got going.
After a recent illness which had caused the cancellation of several gigs this autumn, Rachel was on good form. In a set composed entirely of her own material – no Halstead/Mojave 3 songs in evidence here – she got under way with a couple of atmospheric acoustic numbers, partner Joe providing solid finger-picking fret work under her ethereal vocals.
The album Waves Are Universal is however made up of a fair few band numbers as well as the acoustic whimsy, and a drummer and bassist joined in the fun. As on the album, and despite the drummer’s obvious attempts at playing hushed, Rachel’s vocals were in places difficult to discern. She’s at her best with acompaniment of just guitar live, and while there were no hints of Slowdive experimentation, the band arrangements made her material sound a little too cluttered to these ears.
Her songs share an aesthetic with Halstead’s – they would seem complete sung around a camp fire on a warm summer’s evening with a group of chilled-out mates reflecting on how beautiful life is. Not the hippy-folky tones of Joan Baez of course, but a strand of musicality that uses the voice as one instrument amongst a mix of several to achieve a mood that verges on the sublime.
A short encore finishes with Rachel demonstrating, somewhat meekly, her talent for accordion to add to the list of instruments she plays – guitar and bass included. She looks completely at home, smiling to her band mates, enjoying the smiles of her faithful crowd. Afterwards, comments from the audience confirm that Rachel has done what she does best – put contented smiles on the faces of those she reaches.