– SOUP KITCHEN, MANCHESTER –
“Now I’m lost in the belly of a cold museum /staring on the beaks on the bird-face men / Now you’re sitting in the kitchen with someone else /stacking up peels of a clementine.”
The closing line of set opener ‘Damn Sure’ sets a tone for the evening. An expedition of melancholy that’s resolve is perhaps, not so bad as one might initially think. Laura Gibson’s travelling turns out to be a big influence on her new album Empire Builder – a wonderful collection of folkpop songs told with a gentle, caring narrative. The name is taken from the slow train that runs from the East to West coast of the US – a journey that took Gibson to a new life in New York and gave her time to reflect and pull the narrative for the title track from the images that were passing her by in the window. The song itself is a pondering narrative shrouded by thoughts of remoteness and loss, but with hope of new beginnings – “This is not, an escape” she states. “But I don’t know how to hold someone without losing my grip.”
There are many journeys from the new album that are played tonight, including the opener. Softly spoken, Gibson is quite an endearing and likeable character. Her anecdotes in between songs are considered, thoughtful and fun. There is certainly no rush to bash out the set as she would rather take the time to engage with the audience as if they were all sat on the floor in her lounge. I keep expecting her to offer us tea and cake.
The latest album is a venture in electric guitar playing for Gibson – recent single ‘Not Harmless’ has her riffing with delight to a driving beat and staccato patched bass lines. On certain songs, namely ‘Five and Thirty’ and ‘The Search for Dark Lake’, her words feel graceful, gently floating along the melody with her trademark rippling acoustic guitar.
The overall impression coming across is that her main goal is to connect. Gibson is an incredibly likable person and I believe she made this connection from the first jovial wave when she and the band took to the stage. If you were to read the backstory to making Empire Builder you would find that over a year ago, Gibson’s entire life was tilted when her apartment in New York was rocked by a gas explosion that resulted in all her musical work, not to mention her possessions, were lost. Of all the stories she tells tonight this terrible event is not mentioned. At all. For the new album to sound as positive as it does is a wonderful testament to human resolve and Gibson’s transparent eagerness to share her experiences makes us feel privileged to have been a part of it. Even for just one night.
Read the article on Silent Radio here