A feather, in case you didn’t know, is a marvel of natural engineering. Incredibly light but, pound for pound, as strong as carbon fibre, allowing our avian friends to carve shapes in the air with apparently effortless grace and power.
So The Black Feathers are aptly named. This evening’s performance at the Lansdown in Bristol began with “Goodbye Tomorrow”, showcasing the immaculate harmonies of Sian and Ray, two voices perfectly paired and expertly controlled, with Ray’s sometimes feather-light, sometimes assertively resonant touch on the guitar providing backing. Like the playing, the voices, whether whisper-soft or soaring powerfully, are polished to perfection, every phrase engineered and refined.
Next came a sly, fun take on “Spirit in the Sky”, with mischief in the guitar line acknowledging the camp of the original but the beautifully constructed vocal still showing reverence to a famous old song. Yes, there’s not just musical talent on display (although the songs are so good, so well delivered that the duo could sit stock still, never speaking to the audience and it would still be a spellbinding evening) – there’s self-deprecating humour, wit and true warmth too.
Thus the tone for the evening is set, the haunting “Homesick” a combination of heart-stopping beauty and incredible precision , the ‘foot-tapping misery’ of “Down by the River” and the pared-down, truly acoustic “You will be Mine” all faultlessly delivered and interspersed with jokes, asides and a genuine gratitude to the audience.
The singing is impeccable, one runs out of superlatives for the quality of the harmonies and for the composition of the melodies around which they are woven. The lyrics are elegantly constructed, meaningful and every song is polished, every dynamic thought through and rehearsed. The performance transports the audience; a glance around the room shows eyes closed and emotion writ large on faces. Tonight’s performance could truly have graced any stage in the world. I hope one day soon that everyone sat in the upstairs room at the Lansdown will be pointing at their televisions, telling relatives: “I saw them before they were famous, it was amazing, I was this close.”
If there’s any justice, that’s exactly what will happen. Catch The Black Feathers while you can, and pick up “Soaked to the Bone” and amaze your next dinner guests.