Without doubt the recent gig at the Norwich Arts Centre with Rainbow Girls, Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra (along with The Vagaband) was one of my highlights of the year so far, and the chance to see them again before the end of their summer visit to the UK was far too much for me to resist.
They would be playing in a modern bar on the riverside university development, a building I somehow contrived to walk past twice before being spotted by Erinn, and then Marty. In my defence it has no obvious outside signage which actually makes a pleasing change. It was lovely to see Erinn and Marty again and have a quick catch-up. The rest of the band members had not arrived yet and as I was rather early treated myself to one of Cult Cafe‘s excellent bar meals. It’s a really relaxed place, with seating outside one could eat and drink watching the sun set behind the masts of the boats on the river. Inside there is a lot of glass with huge windows, and the stage set in the corner of the room. I wondered how it would all sound but it was terrific. The place was quickly filling up, and especially so once Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra started their set. It’s deceptively large and there were some 250 or so people here, the bar staff rushed off their feet.
It’s less a music venue than the Arts Centre but works well and it felt friendly and relaxed. I spoke to several people who’d seen both of these bands at Maverick a few weeks ago and were coming back for more. I also had a pleasant chat with the bands, James from Blue House Music, and was very pleasantly surprised to see Kirsty from Flavour Parlour, who is another regular of the Rainbow Girls gigs and a good friend of theirs.
Fresh from a storming set in Camden, Marty and the boys drew the audience in with the sheer talent of their playing as well as the soulful, powerful songs and extraordinarily captivating delivery. The setlist was not entirely the same as at the Norwich gig, featuring a brand new song inspired by The Titanic after a recent date on the south coast, and the brilliant performances of Smokestack Lightning and a rousing set ending of Liza Jane, lasting some 12 minutes or so and having the whole bar join in. They even played a number American folk blues style offstage amongst the audience. Terrific stuff, a real pleasure to see and hear them again. They also had new supplies, freshly arrived, of their live CD which they sold out of during Maverick. Catch them on their tour of Ireland in August. Their stunning studio album, Pray For Rain, is creating quite a buzz in Norwich, as those who bought it are enthusing about it and sharing it with friends who couldn’t make the gig. I heard of one lovely story of a friend who bought it playing it in the shop where they work the following day. Another friend who came into the shop was stopped in their tracks hearing this incredible music and so they had a lengthy chat about the band and the gig, and so the word of mouth about this band spreads.
Rainbow Girls I have written so much about already. They have some killer tunes, beautiful harmonies, are fantastic musicians able to switch instruments, adapt and read the mood of a venue and audience and decide songs accordingly, but as well as all of this, they have a remarkable and unique energy and lust for life which anyone who witnesses it, speaks to them, or listens to them will testify. It is highly infectious and their magical chemistry just sucks one in. They play with a smile and natural ability but delve deeper and there is plenty songwriting and deeper talents too.
I heard a few of their new songs at Norwich, and again on a recent radio session podcast for House of Mercy, which actually have a slightly different style. Rockier, faster and with some electric guitar and sounding distinctly upbeat and 1960s/70s-ish with superb hooks and harmonies. A lovely Californian garage pop feel, “Naked” being especially catchy, immediate and memorable for me.
The set seemed to absolutely whizz by, with the audience getting increasingly enthusiastic and into it. We had a brilliant version of Don’t Let Me Down and plenty of stomping, not to mention some frenetic hula-hooping from a beaming Kirsty. To close the evening they were joined again by Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra to share the stage, and then the dancefloor.
All in all another very successful and hugely enjoyable gig from all of these lovely people … long may their amazing ride continue, they are brightening up the days and lives of many people and look to be having an absolute ball too … this is what people will always feel and it’s impossible not to find yourself smiling back and tapping to the tunes.
words and photos, richard shashamane 2014