Back in June 2018, Angie McMahon played one of the biggest shows of her young career when she graced the Royal Albert Hall’s stage in support of Angus and Julia Stone. Her social media feed suggested a hint of nerves before walking out to face the crowd, but despite playing solo, her songs and her extraordinary voice filled the cavernous venue with ease. Needless to say, the Australian made a significant impression that resulted in this writer travelling to Manchester just to see her, despite the bulging Dot 2 Dot Festival lineup!
By the time she arrives on stage at Night & Day Cafe there is a pretty significant crowd in attendance. Immediately however, there is a perceptible difference to the Royal Albert Hall concert; accompanied by a drummer and bassist, Angie is an artist at ease. The nerves are gone. The past twelve months have seen her touring pretty much non-stop, including award-winning slots at SXSW and this experience has made a difference. Opening with ‘Soon’ is a clear sign of this developing wisdom and nerve. It’s initially a quiet number and the chatty Manchester crowd have not settled down yet. The guitar is tender at the outset, her voice equally delicate, but this melancholy number crackles with a visual accessibility that communicates with the crowd who gradually start to go quiet as the song’s pulse increases.
Now that she has their attention, ‘Slow Mover’ is the perfect way to showcase her incredible vocals and in the confines of Night & Day, they’re blistering! Chunky rhythms compliment her effortless voice but the band add some vital yet subtle amplitude to the song. The emphatic chorus arrives and there’s a satisfied smile from McMahon as the crowd sing the lyrics back to her.
Angie McMahon excels in the kind of simmering angst which explodes into a raucous and tenacious payoff and her choice of Fleetwood Mac song further demonstrates this predilection. ‘Silver Springs’ may not be their most iconic track, but it allows McMahon to generate a cool vibe which she impressively scales up as the song reaches its final moments.
We get a contextual prelude before ‘Missing Me’ further demonstrating that she sings from the heart. Unpredictable guitar incisions get our attention until McMahon’s vocals, her most potent weapon, join the fray. It’s searing stuff but it’s also majestic; there’s songwriting alchemy being forged here amidst a melodic instinct that beguiles. ‘Keeping Time’ bolsters this concept. Lyrically bold yet uncomplicated in its euphonic pleasures, the Night & Day crowd once again sing the song back to the singer/songwriter to her obvious delight.
The final song of her short set is another example of her keen knack of turning relatable experiences into engrossing musical reflections of these personal narratives. When she sings “And I spend so much time eating pasta, Although I’m probably allergic and other people seem to move so much faster” there’s a smile of acknowledgement once again as the crowd sing the line back. The song concludes in typical style with a change of pace amidst raucous percussion and basslines which compliment Angie’s rampant guitar. It’s over far too soon, but we’re promised a record in a few months which will bolster this incredible, early material from a performer who will not be walking on to small, cafe bar stages for much longer. In fact, that Royal Albert Hall stage seems like the more natural environment for Angie McMahon!
Words & Images by Iain Fox