Rachael Dadd + Tobias Sarra
Friday, November 18th 2022
As far as live music goes, we’re a bit spoilt here in the North East. Hence, I often have an internal debate going on relating to what to see and what to pass on.
You can’t be everywhere of course and for me, and most people I guess, there is always something of a driver behind said decision.
Case in point, Rachael Dadd: over the years, I have enjoyed hearing the occasional track and I am aware she collaborates with Kate Staples and Rozi Plain from This Is The Kit and has name-checked Laura Veirs as a major influence, (both favourites of mine) so when I saw she was playing Cobalt Studios in Newcastle I thought to myself, ‘got to be worth checking out’ and proceeded to click ‘buy’.
The last gig review I had filed for Rocking Magpie, 18 days previously had been that of Swiss power-rocker Emilie Zoe and that night I had been gobsmacked by the shear intensity of her performance.
That experience had really affected me, in as much as it had re-kindled the flame for edgy rock gigs that had been reduced to something of a flicker of late. However, I knew tonight would be a much more laid-back affair, particularly as Rachael Dadd’s Bandcamp page states that the ‘hope is that when people listen [to my music] they will feel held and find space to breathe, grieve and celebrate.’
I had been warned, but it still took me a little while to readjust to the mellower atmosphere of tonight’s gig at Cobalt. Indeed, the ambience of the partially candle-lit room, the casual seating arrangements and the very efficient in house smoke-machine was akin to an easy-going jazz club.
The support, Tobias Sarra helped calm the rocker in me with a varied lo-fi set, so when Rachael took to the stage (along with her three-piece band) and sat down at her keyboard and simply said, ‘We’re going to play some songs’ I was ready.
She eased us in gently with Ghost and went seamlessly into Ox, both tracks are taken from her latest album Kaleidoscope. Unsurprisingly, the majority of tonight’s set is lifted from Kaleidoscope, which she tells us was written during COVID lockdown; a period she had spent entirely at home caring for her two children.
A handful of piano-based songs in, the tempo changes ever so gently when Rachael straps on a Gibson electric guitar and performs Heads Down.
Like her friend Kate Staples she doesn’t wear any shoes on stage and before she goes any further she proceeds to take her socks off because [she says] ‘I’m feeling hot’.
It was cosy I must concede.
Join The Dots is next – ‘It’s a reflective song’ she explains as cellist Alex Heane plays some haunting, discordant drones before Rachael’s vocal comes in, swooping and floating around the room as her band provide gentle backing – does it move you? she singsbefore the repeated mantra ‘there’s more than one way to travel’ closes out the song.
It’s comfort music for sure but in a good way.
Apparently, Rachael lived in Japan on and off for 10 years and she tells us that The Bridge is a reflection on her time there, it’s performed on acoustic guitar, sat on her piano stool with minimal accompaniment from her band.
‘If the kid in me is in peace, am I ready to walk across the bridge’ – she’s clearly reflecting on her own inward journey and she uses the bridge that connects the islands of Honshu and Kyushu as a symbolic reference point.
It’s thoughtful stuff, after which she returns to centre stage and again plugs in her electric guitar. The intensity level increases ever so smoothly as the band play the opening track of Kaleidoscope – ‘Children of The Galaxy’. Itstarts with a slow, low-pitched drum beat, initially giving the song a Native American feel but when Rachael sings ‘we are children of the sun and stars’ it puts me in mind of the classic Joni Mitchell tune Woodstock and overall, the night does recall the heady days of hippie idealism.
Nothing wrong with that, it’s something we could do with a bit more of these days.
On the drive home, I contrasted how I had felt that night when I had been pulverised by Emilie Zoe’s sheer power, I had left that gig high on adrenalin and in a state of elation, tonight though in Newcastle I had experienced the flip side of the live music coin, Rachael Dadd and her excellent band had given me something akin to a sonic massage, a kind of balm for the soul. I felt consoled and despite the nation’s gathering storm, the child in me, for now, was at peace.
Review by William Graham
Photo courtesy Ali Welford