Isobel CampbellHarvest Sun @ Philharmonic Music Room 3/2/20
It’s both surprising and endearing to witness ISOBEL CAMPBELL’s unease as she segues from one beautiful track to another. The Scottish folk singer could be considered an indie icon, with 25 years’ experience collaborating and fronting some of the most enduring projects from either side of the pond. Yet she struggles to raise her head as she talks nervously about tuning up and anxiously awaits her three-piece backing band to ready themselves for the next number.
Once a track starts, though, it is clear why Campbell’s music is so highly regarded. Whether it’s guitarist Andrew Pattie picking the opening notes of Vultures or violinist Nina Violet’s strains to ring in Seafaring Song, the solace and appreciation in the Music Room is palpable. We are treated to a set which spans the full scope of her career, but it’s the songs from this year’s releases which feel like a realisation of self-confidence.
Another track from her 2020 output, National Bird Of India, is exquisitely rendered tonight. The delicate harmonies, hushed vocals and beatific melody are deservedly the centrepiece of a recent eponymous EP release, and the packed auditorium tonight greet it with requisite enthusiasm. From the same EP, the driving psych of Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down A Dream proves Campbell has more than one gear, something she has done throughout her career with the various projects she has lent her talents too.
When Campbell sits down with her cello, it’s a joy to pick up every nuance of the frayed notes in the Music Room’s perfect acoustics. The sparse instrumentation of each track, particularly Mark Lanegan collaboration Saturday’s Gone and newie Rainbow, is hungrily consumed by the seated devotees in the room.
It’s a comprehensive set, lasting well over an hour, and a sweet note is ended on with Is It Wicked Not To Care. The Belle and Sebastian number represents a good three or four chapters earlier in Campbell’s career, but she pays it the respect it deserves. And respect is something we aren’t short of here on Myrtle Street tonight.