Siobhan Wilson with the Demi Quartet at Edinburgh Reid Concert Hall, 28/4/18

Somewhere in heaven an angel is belting out psalms like it’s Friday night karaoke in Govan.

Fortunately this transcendental trade-off means that those of us present at the Reid Concert Hall on Saturday evening are treated to Siobhan Wilson singing with the voice of an angel.

If I were to read an article that opened with those two sentences I would probably find myself involuntarily dry-retching into my jumper sleeve, as I’m sure many of you currently are.

Wilson’s stunningly pure voice however is wholly deserving of such vomit-inducing hyperbole.

The young Elgin-born songwriter’s second album There Are No Saints, released on Edinburgh’s Song, By Toad Recordswas one of the highlights of 2017 and she recreates it for us tonight accompanied by her regular guitarist and the Demi Quartet – of whom there is, somewhat perplexingly, five.

She takes to the stage resplendent – although a little nervy – in rainbow coloured fairy wings and after taking a few tentative lines to find her voice – and her confidence – she bursts into life along with the Demi Quartet and gives a swelling rendition of ‘Whatever Helps’ to open the show.

As she continues, one can’t help but feel that Wilson is holding back slightly.

The daunting size of the Reid Concert Hall has not been matched by the size of the PA system and at times it seems as though the young singer is being constrained by the sound technicians inability – or unwillingness – to crank the volume up.

Five songs into the set after a haunting new track that Wilson neglects to tell us the title of, the Demi Quartet – glowing with admiration though they may be – feel embarrassingly underused.

Fortunately she follows this up with ‘Dear God’ – a beautiful and devastating song that lends itself well to the string accompaniment, although is slightly tainted by the guitarist’s overzealous tambourine playing.

Despite this the song stands out as a high point and Wilson uses the room’s incredible acoustics to her advantage by moving around her microphone to recreate the haunting, ethereal backing vocals present on the studio recording.

Wilson’s cutesy stage persona somewhat shatters the illusion her thoughtful lyrics create, as she makes a remark about not being used to such a “posh” venue, so posh, in fact, that there isn’t even a bar!

Fortunately for the promoters the audience in attendance is possibly the driest group of people who have ever congregated anywhere outside of a church hall – a testament to Wilson’s folky appeal.

‘Disaster and Grace’ sees Wilson move to piano, and proves to be the most sonically successful arrangement of the night as the volume of the piano emboldens her and she allows her voice to soar.

She closes the show – after a second encore – with a cover of the Sex Pistols’ ‘Anarchy In The UK’ (no, really), which she delivers with a knowing smiling after explaining that she was challenged to do so via an online poll.

All in all, a slightly underwhelming gig that is carried largely by Wilson’s incredible vocal capabilities while the Demi Quartet remain regretfully under-utilised (possibly under-rehearsed).

I had high hopes for this show so I won’t pretend not to be disappointed.

I’ll give Wilson the benefit of the doubt since this was a special one-off collaborative performance, and hope that I can catch her usual stage show another time and find it more up to my expectations. 

Words: Thomas Cross


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