Gig review: Brigid Mae Power at Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds

Brigid Mae Power announces that tonight marks her second visit to Leeds a few songs into tonight’s compelling set, which follows strong support from Marta Del Grandi and Georgie Buchanan (whose explorations of traditional folk formats built around harp and multi-layered vocal manipulations promise good things for next year’s debut album).

Brigid Mae Power. Picture: Steve Gullick

The Irish songwriter goes on to describe (somewhat sheepishly) a teenage infatuation with Guns & Roses, which led to attending Leeds Festival the year of Axl Rose’s first, corn-rowed attempt at a comeback.

In more recent years, Power has cultivated a unique songwriting style over three albums, landing at a distinctly potent blend of ancient folk song forms and traditional and modern mutations of Country on last year’s superb Head Above The Water.

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Townes Van Zandt, Jason Molina: the artists covered on recent EP Burning Your Light point towards the deep troubled waters where Power prefers to wade. There is a hypnotic intensity to these deceptively sparse songs that more than matches the decibel-heavy posturing of her earlier hard rock interests.

As if to prove the point, tonight’s set hits the hardest when most additional elements are removed. A hushed, deeply felt Let Me Hold You Through This (from 2016’s self-titled debut), with Power moving from guitar to piano for a rendition that emphasises the fertile spaces between the notes, is almost uncomfortably intimate in its starkly unadorned emotional resonance, like peeking in on a private hymnal. Throughout the set, Power’s effortlessly powerful, clear and agile vocals glide into wordless lamentations whenever lyrics are deemed to fall short of getting the point across.

That said, the bass-and-drums duo backing Power (with partner Peter Broderick providing backing vocals alongside percussion) add a valuable layer of subtly turbulent momentum and rhythmic dynamics to songs like the defiant closer Don’t Shut Me Up Politely, which – as so many of Power’s songs - could easily be mistaken for a vintage folk song freshly dug out from beneath layers of cobwebs and faded memories.

The only downside is the set’s brevity: just as the trio appear to get properly warmed up (figuratively and literally: it is the kind of evening that makes you wish for the ‘warm hob’ referred to during an acapella rendition of Irish folk song May Morning Dew), the set is over.

Hopefully it won’t take another 20 years for Power to return to Leeds.