Review - Horse accompanied by Gemma Filby, Freckfest, Harbour Arts Centre, Saturday 10th March 18

Horse with Gemma Filby at Harbour Arts Centre 2 credit Paul Camlin.JPG

image - Paul Camlin

It’s been two years since Horse played her first and, until now, only Freckfest show. An instant sell-out, she vowed to return. After touring several times in the interim, not only with her music but also in a one-woman play – the critically-acclaimed ‘Careful’, she stayed true to her word. Last Saturday night (10thMarch) Horse once again slayed a sell-out audience with a combination of richly-crafted songs and stories.

“I was absolutely delighted to find the HAC rammed once again. With the audience literally feet away, it is a very intimate space. It keeps you on your toes and automatically creates a real buzz. It’s easy to have an instant rapport with the HAC audience, it feels like they really appreciate you being there! I loved the gig.”

Everyone in the room was well aware of the amazing power of Horse’s vocals beforehand. Indeed, it’s the main reason we’d another full house on our hands. It’s not until you’ve seen her up close and personal though that even the most ardent of her supporters would’ve been blown away at just how wonderful a singer she is. Freed up from the constraints of playing (although she does strap on a guitar for many of the songs), Horse is accompanied for the night by the excellent and understated Gemma Filby on keys and backing vocals. Horse allows her vocals to really fly. The way she steps up to and away from the microphone to vary the dynamics and range of her voice is very effective. Off mic she stamps out a beat on the heel of her shoe. She slaps a rhythm on her thigh. She clicks the offbeat on her fingers. In the small confines of the HAC, every individual noise can be heard and it’s these little involuntary things that elevate Horse beyond ‘good’ and into the realms of ‘great’. At times, she nearly veers into scatting jazz territory, her whole self vibrating with sound. Even the great David McAlmont talks reverentially when her name is mentioned. 

Talking about this after the show, a slightly shy Horse blushes. “I sing with my whole body, don’t I? Not just from here (pats tummy) but from everywhere(makes big circular motion). Big voice, big personality!” 

And she does have a big personality. Her between-song chatter is very funny at times. Her photographic memory perfectly recalls studio details from 20 and more years ago. At one point in the set she has an impromptu conversation with an audience member, Kevin (check!)who in the mid 1980s was her bass player. There’s talk of an anniversary tour to celebrate 25 years of Gods Home Movie, her big breakthrough album. There’s also talk of taking her celebrated ‘Shirley & Dusty’ show on the road with the aforementioned McAlmont. It might be another couple of years before she’s back in the HAC, but she never stops. 

On this form, it’s easy to see why Horse was named one of The Saltire Society’s Outstanding Women.