LIVE: Eliza Carthy & The Restitution – Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, 25/11/2022 1

LIVE: Eliza Carthy & The Restitution – Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, 25/11/2022

Eliza Carthy apologises. Three dates into the tour and she is suffering from a cold. She quickly adds, as a huge smile begins to etch across her face, “30 years. No wonder my voice is tired.” She is referring, of course, to the length of time (from the age of 17) that she has been a professional musician. And to celebrate this momentous occasion not only are Eliza Carthy and her band The Restitution out on the road, but they have also released an album, Queen of the Whirl, which contains newly recorded versions of some of the most popular songs from her career.

But Eliza Carthy really has no reason to say sorry. The minor inconvenience of a few coughs and splutters was never going to get in her way as she proceeds to put in a sterling performance, replete with her customary energy, enthusiasm, and good humour. Eliza Carthy is nothing if not resilient. And, if anything, the presence of the ailment seems to add even greater depth, texture, and emotional heft to her vocal delivery.

Eliza Carthy & The Restitution open this evening’s concert with a stunning a cappella rendition of ‘Napoleon’s Dream’ where her lone voice is complemented quite perfectly with those of her five male band members. The ensuing ‘The Snow Melts The Soonest’ immediately affirms the fact that Eliza Carthy – daughter of the late Norma Waterson and her husband Martin Carthy and member of that great British folk dynasty – is not confined by any strictures that the more traditional elements of that musical idiom may afford.  It is dark. It is spiky. And bristles with a deep sense of foreboding.

The reference point for ‘Two Tears’ is Marianne Faithfull’s reading of Tom Waits‘Strange Weather’, the title track from Faithfull’s 1987 album. And here Eliza Carthy relocates all of the song’s ravaged world-weariness with her well-drilled band – Phil Alexander (keys), Ben Seal (bass), Willy Molleson (drums), David Delarre (guitar), Saul Rose (accordion) – laying down a suitably heavy groove.

Eliza Carthy & The Restitution

‘My Father’s Mansion’ had originally appeared on an album called Where Have All The Flowers Gone?, a tribute record to the legendary folk singer and social activist, Pete Seeger who wrote the song. There, Eliza Carthy provided vocal accompaniment to Billy Bragg as well as writing the song’s string arrangement. Here, she takes complete control, imbuing the song’s strong message of inclusivity with power and persuasion. She rightly sees a world where everyone gets their own space.

During the second half of this evening’s performance, Eliza Carthy moves to the Octave violin – one made for her by Tim Phillips – an instrument, she tells us, where if you play the bottom note “you just grit your teeth and your eyes wobble.” She brings all of that seismic resonance and deeply personal feeling to a stellar reading of ‘In London So Fair’. ‘Space Girl’ – with an additional verse specially prepared by its co-writer Peggy Seeger – affirms its rightful place as a pop song. And a bawdy ‘Blood on my Boots’ oozes vintage music hall decadence and much dishevelled personal experience.

Eliza Carthy dedicates her last song of the night, ’Stumbling On’, to the memory of Wilko Johnson who sadly passed away earlier this week at the age of 75, before returning – in truth, the six musicians didn’t bother with leaving the stage – for a riotous romp through the ‘Accordion Song’. The night was an unmitigated triumph, moving far beyond the confines of traditional folk music convention and easily defeating the ravages of the common cold as it did so. Here’s to another 30 years of Eliza Carthy.

Photos: Simon Godley

More photos from this performance are HERE

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