‘Now I’m going to play you a medley of my hit’ Eliza Gilkyson says with a laugh half way through the first half, before launching in to The Beauty Way. Though her quip might be true, the rest of the night only stands as a testament that this is not her only song worthy of acclaim. The night is filled with a sense of sorrow, themes of loss running throughout the set, but Eliza has a way of holding it all together which prevents it from tipping over the edge to become indulgently depressing.
Whether it’s Death In Arkansas (penned by her brother, Tony) or Blue Moon Night it quickly becomes apparent that Eliza’s most recent album (Rose At The End Of Time) features more of her astute observations of the world, brought together with poetical lyrics and subtle instrumentation. The new songs are mixed in with older favourites, and with the second half of the night dedicated solely to audience requests it’s clear that she’s not here just to plug the album, but to please the crowd after a long hiatus from the UK.
With Jens Lysdal accompanying, despite him never having heard Sanctuary the two blend effortlessly and he makes Tennessee Road come to life with the addition of slide guitar. Elsewhere Rose of Shannon lightens the mood a little, focusing on love instead of loss, whilst Jedidiah 1777 brings to life the words of her grandfather during the revolution. Nevertheless, it’s when Eliza sits at the piano to deliver Beautiful World which marks the highlight of the show. There’s something haunting about the repetitive nature of the song, counterbalancing some of the gloom elsewhere.
Though tonight doesn’t deviate from what Eliza does best, it does reconfirm her ability to combine beauty with politics, and love with loss.
Photos © Jo Cox and must not be reproduced without prior consent