o2 institute, Birmingham ~ So, on a cold and drizzly night, I head off to Birmingham to sample the delights of the o2 Institute, only to find that half of Digbeth has been dug up whilst they install more tram lines, a shed load of diversions are in place that just take you round and round in circles and there’s nowhere to park (that isn’t miles away from the venue) - welcome to Birmingham ! !
I was in a real good mood when I started my journey, but now I’m spitting the proverbial feather - or half the bleedin’ chicken, if truth be known. I need to take a deep breath and calm down - breathe boy, breathe.
Fortunately for me tonight’s Support (for Cardinal Black) is Laura Evans who was able to put me in a ‘happy place’ within ten minutes. A cheeky, little acoustic set, with only seven tunes, but it was good. In fact, it was very good.
Hailing from the Valleys in deepest South Wales, Aberdare to be precise, who’s only other musical claim to fame is Stereophonics, so she’s not exactly in bad company, Laura she treats us to half of the tunes from her latest album ‘State of Mind’ and a Chris Stapleton cover, just for good measure.
She proves that some good can come out of Covid lockdowns as much of it was written in this time and tells us many tales of heartbreak, even warning you to be careful because if you ever date a songwriter, you will appear in a subsequent tune or two. It’s in the rules, apparently.
Supported by Will Edmonds on guitar, she starts with ‘Solo’ telling of what it’s like to be free of a significant other and quickly follows it with ‘Fire With Fire’ another autobiographical tale of loves lost. It’s a powerful tune and sung so well seeing as she’s only two songs in.
She breaks with the album revue for the moment and covers a Chris Stapleton track, ‘Arkansas’, but it’s not long before we’re back on the broken heart trail with ‘Fool’ where she bares her soul and sings it with sheer emotion showing through, her facial expressions telling you as much about the story as the lyrics do.
All of this just builds you up to the foot stomping stuff though, which started with ’Gone’ before we get the title track of the album ‘State of Mind’, another power tune that raises the room just in time for the big finish, which comes in the form of ‘I’m Alright’ and with the compulsory bit of audience participation included as it was the last track and just to make sure that Birmingham was suitably warmed up for the headliner. Nothing lyrically complicated, just the title repeated three times which everyone managed after a dry run and a hook that was going to stick in your head on the journey home - it doesn’t matter how many songs you hear at a gig, something always sticks in your head and for me, this was it.
And with that we were done. It was all over - all too soon - but I look forward to seeing Laura again, and with a full band next time because for all the subtlety an acoustic set can provide, some of those tunes need to be thumped out to be fully appreciated, I just know it.
Evans spends the rest of September with Cardinal Black, before she heads out with Matt Anderson in October. She flies solo though with her own tour in February next year and that will be something to look forward to, on those dark, winters nights.
2. Fire With Fire
3. Arkansas ‘Chris Stapleton Tune’
6. State of Mind
7. I’m Alright
Written for Rock at Night Magazine