On another extremely cold March evening, it was with pleasure to be able to spend some time listening to the heartwarming songs of Milly Hirst and Heart of a Dog at Iain Lowery’s latest OST session in the Cinema City Bar. It was also nice to see some familiar faces around, including Grazing Saints’ Joe, and another friend who I spotted that hadn’t realised there were to be bands playing, having only popped into the bar for a pre-film drink. Said friend asked me what the bands were like, so I of course enthused about both Milly and Heart of a Dog enough for her to hang around to hear Milly’s first song of the set, Gentle Sailor.
Despite feeling a bit under the weather and probably preferring to be at home recovering, Milly delivered a faultless and beautiful set. Tonight she was a little subdued in mood but not in delivery or performance, and sang with her usual eloquence and subtlety. Gentle Sailor being a perfect opener, and later on in the set we were treated to a couple of new songs, one about her sister, which is not yet complete, and a very hauntingly beautiful one called, I think, Illustrated Man, which I was most impressed and taken with.
During the brief soundcheck Milly had hummed and played a few bars of “You are Lovely” which she has not played live for a little while and hoped it might get an airing tonight, but that was not to be. It was a beautiful set still, however, and good also that the bar was largely quiet this time, on a previous occasion there was a slightly noisy group in a corner not showing due respect. Anyway, after Gentle Sailor she made mention that she was feeling a “bit crappy” and not talkative, but with songs like these, they speak for themselves, and with the acoustics of the venue and the touching words and deceptive simplicity of some of the songs, they had a soothing effect, and I hope a therapeutic effect for Milly herself.
She also included I Still, which whenever I hear the opening notes of I always feel a tingle, that anyone will recognise when they hear one of their absolute favourite songs start, with its haunting melancholy and restrained power.
Towards the end of the set she introduced the couple of new tracks. The first of which I found incredibly powerful. Of course it was delivered in her trademark subtle way, with some repetition of sparse notes only heightening the effect of the words. I would really like to hear this one again. The second was dedicated to her sister, as Milly is soon to be an auntie 🙂 This song is apparently still a work in progress but really lovely, with an opening line of, I believe, “And oh my kin, the light within you … ” setting the scene for another beautiful composition, and heartfelt and touching as always. This is Milly’s gift, along with her amazing voice she can write from the heart without anything ever sounding over-sentimental, they just sound sincere, soulful, and exquisitely beautiful. How proud and pleased her sister must have been to hear this.
The song ended with an ad-libbed line of “It’s only half-finished, I’ll do the rest another time” and so we were glad to have had a preview of these new songs. All too quickly a set of 35-40 minutes was over, and feeling like it was only ten minutes, but any time in the presence of this amazing singer is to be gratefully received like a blessing.
Having seen Heart of a Dog just a few days earlier performing with a couple of Port Islas as a five piece at the Arts Centre, tonight was the bare bones of the band, Sam and Jon performing a very relaxed and informal set as a duo. They played an acoustic set, with gently strummed guitar and Jon using the single drum we could really hear his voice on the harmonies, they really do sing well together.
As well as playing the set regulars of Hits from the Shows, Undone, Berlin et al. there was a rare airing for a song or two (Give it Time?) and Horse. It was nice to hear them in their pared down form in such a setting.
At the end of the night I saw again the friend I had spoken to earlier, who did not see the film but saw both sets and was hooked from the very first lines of Milly’s first song … remarking what an amazing voice she has – she and Heart of a Dog have a new fan, many, many more are to follow.
Words and photos by shashamane