Jim Ghedi

19 February
Upper Chapel

Every so often you find yourself at a gig where the artist and the location appear to be in some kind of symbiotic harmony. That was the case for Jim Ghedi’s homecoming concert in the resplendent Upper Chapel in the heart of Sheffield. This was his latest performance as part of a wider UK tour to promote his new album, A Hymn For Ancient Land. The dimly lit but warm backdrop of the Upper Chapel was a perfect choice for Ghedi and his accompanying band, musicians who worked effortlessly to bring his latest release to life in front of a packed audience.

The evening started with support by the Dublin and Belfast quartet Landless, who delivered an unaccompanied traditional vocal folk set. This was followed by a screening of Ian Nesbitt’s documentary, Settlers In England, which is about a small community of settlers that was established after the first world war just outside Bolsover. The film was a perfect lead into Ghedi’s musical journey, which thrives on a strong connection to the natural environments around South Yorkshire and north-east Derbyshire. The rich harmonies and calm atmospheric sounds felt otherworldly as violin, bass and cello merged into one with Ghedi’s guitar and vocals.

The introduction of Graham McElearney on harp for a couple of songs added a dreamlike beauty to proceedings. It was like the venue had been designed and built in 1700 just for this moment. The concert felt perfectly-timed for spring and a reflection back to Nesbitt’s images of sprawling fields and open skies with Ghedi’s musical arrangements. It felt like we had stumbled onto the set of Detectorists and had indeed discovered a beautiful but ancient treasure.

Andy Tattersall

Pastoral Echoes: The Great Age of English Song

10 February
Upper Chapel

Since the referendum, ideas about Englishness that previously lay dormant have become one possible prism through which we can see our collective identity in a period of transition, leading to a revived interest in the nation’s cultural canon. However, it's long been familiar territory for pianist Susie Allan and baritone Roderick Williams, who remarks that this programme of English song from the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries could’ve been billed as the pair’s greatest hits.

The sober setting of the Upper Chapel was quickly warmed by an exuberant and often joyous selection of tunes chosen by Williams, including lesser-known works by Roger Quilter and Peter Warlock. The packed-out performance, part of Music In The Round's spring season, opened with George Butterworth's cycle of songs from Housman's 'A Shropshire Lad', a series of countryside tales that lent themselves perfectly to Williams' expressive voice and which allowed Allan to lay down impressionistic flurries of notes in accompaniment.

After John Ireland’s rousing ‘Sea Fever’ came ‘Silent Noon’ by Vaughan Williams, a graceful and elegiac number despite its depiction of “a rather risqué moment out in the fields,” as the singer put it. My favourite song of the evening was another by Vaughan Williams, the soaring ‘Roadside Fire’ from his ‘Songs of Travel’ cycle.

It wasn’t hard to see what attracted Benjamin Britten to ‘The Ploughboy’, a gaily comic tune that seemed to have escaped from a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta about a 'simple' country lad who daydreams about entering parliament. For an encore, the pair played Williams’ own arrangement of ‘A Red, Red Rose’ by Robert Burns, diverging from the theme of the programme for a gentle love song inspired by the folk reworkings of Britten, Williams’ idol.

Sam Gregory

British Sea Power

9 February
The Leadmill

The gig experience has undoubtedly changed in recent years. It’s become increasingly uncommon for crowds to experience live music in more traditional methods. Today, punters often favour the ‘film now, enjoy later’ approach, diluting the intimacy that makes live music so compelling.

Formed nearly two decades ago, British Sea Power have never been entirely commercially successful. However, the numbers filling The Leadmill and the absence of said mobile phones highlights how highly regarded they are to the cult following they’ve gained along the way.

With six members in the Brighton band, the stage is appropriately cluttered, instruments sitting under a canopy of plastic foliage like a scene from The Mighty Boosh. The band appear from the bushes, raising drinks to an audience vocal in their excitement.

Their infectious pop compositions are sustained by lyrics that display an attractive ambiguity. This is not to say they’re needlessly obscure. Adventurous word choices further demonstrate the band's mutability and underlying euphoric indie rock sensibility. ‘Bad Bohemian’, from their latest album, holds a depressing optimism. Whirling 80s synths that have no doubt inspired comparison to Joy Division have a stimulating effect on the audience, with hands rising to the air as lyrics are sung in unison.

A change in dynamic arrives when lead singer Yan and bassist brother Hamilton switch vocal duties on a couple of songs. Hamilton's vocals are decidedly more contemporary than Yan's aerated and melancholic delivery, while Martin Noble on lead guitar accentuates the memorable melodies found throughout their extensive discography.

With the night's end in sight, two mascot bears take to the floor and the room is elevated by this novelty arrival. Smiles widen and friends embrace as they’re played out with instrumental 'The Great Skua', a song that yearns for Attenborough-style narration in a TV series finale.

Tom Josephidou

The Orielles

17 February
Yellow Arch

The main support tonight comes from local ‘indie glitter’ heroines, The Seamonsters. They’re engaging and enchanting and have a very interesting approach to song structure, with songs shifting gears from up-tempo, frothy pop to funereal and back again. New recordings 'L'amour' and 'Like A Gurlll' are a romantic, robotic dreamscape and an unbridled pop confection respectively. Debut single 'Lost (And Found)' closes the set with a delicious sugar rush.   

The Orielles are a young trio from Halifax who have received unanimously glowing reviews for their debut album, Silver Dollar Moment. The album was only released the day before this sold-out gig, but the fans at the front seem to have fully digested it, with great chunks of lyrics being sung back to the band. I first saw them three years ago and they have retained their youthful freshness while developing their own DIY no-style style. While recording the album, they expanded their musical palette with synths and percussion, but here they pretty much stick to their bass, drums and guitar setup, apart from some liberal use of cowbell. 

Obviously this is an album-heavy set and the soon-to-be classics keep coming in all shapes and sizes. Jangly poppers 'Mango' and 'I Only Bought It For The Bottle' precede the waltz-time 'Liminal Spaces', which allows Henry Carlyle Wade to take his guitar on a mystical journey through the 60s.

All three musicians have a relaxed feel on their instruments – nothing flashy, just free-spirited and funky. Last year's single 'Sugar Tastes Like Salt' ends things with a groovy flourish. Their signing to Heavenly Recordings is a perfect fit, with their self-styled 'post-dance punk' sitting them comfortably at the top of the label's table and helping them become the coolest gang in town.

Pete Martin