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Gwenno, The Usher Hall, Edinburgh

  • Written by  Cassandra Harrison


As usual when I rock up to these things, my name never seems to be included on the press list.  I usually find my way via a PR group and Musos' Guide editor. Somewhere between Liz, Christian and Kenneth, Cassandra got a bit lost. And as usual, I end up standing there as if I’m trying to get away with something. As I waited, I saw a few stragglers come in, hoping for tickets to see Manic Street Preachers. I was getting to see them for free. But I honestly wasn’t that fussed as it was Gwenno I had my sights on.

Last year, I had the delightful privilege of seeing Gwenno perform at the Hidden Door Festival.  ¾ length trousers were in evidence (on every performer, so it seemed.  It was the zeitgeist of fashion). She wore Chelsea boots (fashion accessory also sweeping from high street to closets) with such style that momentarily, I wanted to be as cool as her. I looked at her and not only admired her ease with herself and her stage presence but also the way that she glided around her keyboard and effortlessly danced about it, not missing a beat or a note. Oh and yes, she is also good at singing.

Fast forward to Sunday past and here she was again, performing in Edinburgh. This time the joint was much classier - with its constant maintenance and numerous ushers, funders, moolahs from high ticket prices and a host of premium shows. To be honest, I liked the performance space and performance itself better at the Leith Theatre. She seemed to fit that space better – or perhaps it was a better fit for her and her troop of 3 back up people.

She skipped out onto the stage (stage right) and all was blue. For the entire show. Which meant I couldn’t get a decent picture to save my life. She was wearing a white button up dress with her crew dressed in black t-shirt and jeans. After song three, Gwenno stated that, “These are my Druids – magical creatures.” It was unfortunate the crowd was quite thin at this point as I felt the people waiting to see MSP were missing out. There wasn’t much chat from Gwenno, however what she did say was well-chosen and just enough to guide us to the heart of her songs sung in Cornish.

“The old saying is a true saying. The old man who has lost his tongue has lost his lamp.” So here we learn how important this language is to her.  What a risk, what a brave thing to release an entire album in a language most of us do not know. It mattered to her and so she did. It is clear that her upbringing of living with a Cornish speaking father and a Welsh speaking mother had a tremendous influence on her. She went on to say that, “In a fair society, we tend to do the right thing. In an unfair society, Fascism sets in.” Cue big cheer from the crowd. 

What I liked about Gwenno’s performance was that it wasn’t all flash and big gestures. It was sincere, heartfelt and down to earth. It was a refreshing change from other gigs that use all the flashy lights and high tech gadgetry to enchant us. Here we were treated to something much more (don’t use the word authentic…don’t…don’t …argh….it’s over-used)….authentic. 

She ended her set saying the final song was about the greatest invention ever: Cheese. Cheese never sounded so good. She taught us some of those magical words and we sang our way to the end of her show. And then she skipped off the stage.

 As I had my seat for the entirety of that evening’s entertainment, I decided to stay on to see MSP. 45 minutes later I burst out of The Usher Hall (still another 45 minutes left of their set). Seeing the golden spring light reflected on the buildings and feeling grateful for my good decision to leave, I felt I had learned a deep truth about myself: I am not a fan of Manic Street Preachers.

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