Live Review: Rhiannon Giddens @ The Factory Theatre – 21/03/16
Reviewed by Chelsea Deeley
Talent seems like an incredibly vague description of Rhiannon Giddens. Touring as part of Bluesfest’s 2016 line-up, this North Carolina-native has garnered praise from The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times, as well as worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry.
Yet tonight, armed with a banjo and a newly purchased hat from the Blue Mountains, Rhiannon Giddens is anything but a solo artist. Flanked by an electric guitarist, double bassist, drummer, percussionist and multi-instrumentalist Hubby Jenkins; throughout tonight’s set she’s constantly swerving the spotlight towards her band mates, singing their praises to a completely enraptured crowd.
Opening with Bob Dylan-penned track ‘Spanish Mary’, for over an hour we are taken on a journey through Northern America, Canada and even Scotland, carried by the various subject nature of each. ‘Last Kind Words’ takes us to the Mississippi River with its swampy, wretched bluesy tone, her voice stooping low and quite imposing in such a small room. Her empowering rendition of ‘Underneath The Harlem Moon’, originally by Ethel Waters, shows her playful side with the cheekily sung lines, “we don’t pick no cotton / Picking cotton is taboo / All we pick is numbers / That includes you white folks too.” Her new track ‘Come Love Come’ is completely rousing performance, as quite a scarce blues composition but with a morose message that depicts stories of families torn-apart during the American Civil War. History, she says, is something that she reads quite a lot.
But for all of the darker tunes, there is a lighter side to tonight’s proceedings. Picking up a violin, she plays a couple of instrumental Canadian folk songs that she says are “in honour of Canada because they picked a really great leader. I can only hope that we follow the same example,” much to the amusement of the crowd. Then there is the second track from her most recent EP Factory Girl ‘Mouth Music’, an impressive array of scat sounds coming solely from Giddens, making it a performance which gains the biggest reaction from the crowd tonight.
For all of the history and oppressive themes that inspire Rhiannon Giddens’ song writing, one thing is for sure: her future is looking incredibly bright.