Rainbow Girls and Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra at The Hunter Club, Bury St Edmunds, 26 July 2014. Review and photos by Richard Shashamane
Well, it wasn’t such a surprise was it, really? For their penultimate date on their UK tour Rainbow Girls and Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra had a show in Bury St Edmunds which I chose to go to, which was a far easier trip than the final gig taking place in Liverpool the following day … although subsequently hearing about that one I rather wish I’d been able to be at that one too!
Arriving mid afternoon on a gloriously sunny summer day it was a real pleasure to stroll around this beautiful town and also have a gorgeous meal in the nearby Mason’s Arms, after which I headed to the venue.
It was something of a shame that there were not more people present for this great line up in a quite charming hall, and with very decent sound too but that was not going to deter anyone on either side of the stage from having a great time. A slightly tired looking Marty started things off to sincere appreciation and the audience reactions seemed to visibly energise him. Because of the low-key nature of the gig and the tiredness it was an altered set with some experimentation and less frenetic than the Norwich gig but not less enjoyable. It was an opportunity to showcase the slower and more reflective numbers and there were a few I hadn’t heard before. In this format the set definitely had more than a hint of a Celtic feel about it, there was Irishness aplenty in the music and the evocation, some of it really quite haunting. Especially on “Letters” with its extended intro, part of this song I managed to capture on video.
I was speaking beforehand with some Vagaband fans who I recognised from previous gigs, and they happened to mention the Norwich gig and the video I loaded of Smokestack Lightning and what an impression this trio had made on them. This is the sort of story I am hearing from everyone who has heard them play, they seem to deeply touch and impress everyone who hears them, be it at a gig or hearing the album. They have something truly special. I’ve seen them three times in the past week or two and each set was quite different but all of them brilliant.
Rainbow Girls too decided to play an experimental set, starting off all lined up together at the front of the stage, including the usually partially hidden Savannah, here on djembe, and they played one of their earliest songs Sally Round the Sunshine from the Joshua Tree Sessions. Although they didn’t play the liveliest of their new songs they still belted out a few of the louder songs in their repertoire and, fantastically, we were treated to another guest appearance by Ali Houiellebecq of The Vagaband on sax, who played a little earlier at nearby Jimmy’s Farm just outside Ipswich. We had a seven-minute performance of Dark Night Dinner (complete with burp from, probably, Caitlin!) and it was glorious fun. Ali adores these girls and their energy, just as I do. When Ali arrived at the venue the warm greetings told me that they adore her every bit as much as she loves them. It was quite touching actually and they kept threatening to kidnap Ali from the Vagaband and take her with them on the rest of the tour and back to California.
One younger member of the audience happened to be celebrating her birthday on this occasion and as the clock had all too quickly reached 11pm and a sound curfew had to be observed, to close the set these lovely people just took their instruments off the stage and played without p.a. a beautiful birthday song (not the obvious traditional one) which even as an observer I found truly lovely and moving. That’s just the sort of people they are.
I am sad that it’ll be another year before I can see any of these gifted people again but feel blessed to have spent some time with them and seen them several times. It’s quite rare for me to travel out of Norwich to see specific bands but I know something special when I see and hear it and wanted to fill my boots on this energy and share with them the joy of their music. Our loss however is Europe’s gain as the Rainbow Girls head now to the Czech Republic, and sadly they will have to part ways with Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra who head now to Ireland, and I have not a shred of doubt that Ireland will fall in love with their music just as we did. Especially Ireland, as I mentioned there is a real Celtic soul to them. I don’t know his background but with a name like O’Reilly there is clearly an Irish connection and this will be felt on both sides. They’ll have a ball!
Rainbow Girls? Well of course they will wow Europe and will be a busking sensation in Italy. Five girls with immense talent, all strongly individual, collectively their energy is infectious just so life-affirmingly natural which is one of the things that’s so magical about them. They do all have such strong individual identities though, it’s not difficult to imagine an animated TV series on them really, is it? 🙂 Long may they all continue to spread their joy – the world needs it.
Many thanks to Rainbow Girls, Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra, and Blue House Music
words and photos, richard shashamane 2014