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Reviews / Tiptoes add to Sermanni’s dainty live act

An engaging and entertaining live act: Rachel Sermanni and Colin Macleod at Tuesday night's concert - Photo: Chris Brown

I’M certainly no podiatrist, but Rachel Sermanni’s feet must be pretty tired today.

The musician stood tall on her tiptoes like a totem pole for much of Tuesday night at Mareel, snake charmed by the rhythm of her absorbing music.

The 22 year old Scot, who was back at the Lerwick venue for the second time in just over a year, was rightly standing proud on an evening that was resplendent in singer songwriter sorcery.

With Sermanni on headlining duties, local songsmith Arthur Nicholson was enlisted to open with his one-man-and-his-guitar act. Heavily mining his dynamic debut album Sticks & Stones, the musician and vocalist blazed through cuts like Call It As You See and Go For It as he endeared himself to the auditorium with swift-fingered panache.

Nicholson’s concise, infectious song structures and adroit chord progressions are key to his appeal, with anyone who has ever ambled past High Level Music’s PA system knowing fine well his tunes’ ability to worm themselves into the subconscious.

From one islander to another. Stornoway’s Colin Macleod – AKA the artist formerly known as the major-label signed The Boy Who Trapped The Sun – followed, with the singer-songwriter on double duties as a solo performer and a member of the three headed Rachel Sermanni ensemble.

It was impressive stuff, with his husky, rich voice lining Mareel with soul as his short set pivoted on moments of fragile beauty. After dealing with an over zealous smoke machine, there were nods to that man Dylan with the likes of Saints’ – an ode to a moaning friend – and the loose, smooth Home.

Rachel Sermanni herself hovered into the fray to provide dual vocals on Macleod’s closing number, a saccharine track that gave a hint of things to come.

With her band mate fairly introspective minutes prior, folk-noir purveyor Sermanni instead was all eyes as she opened her hotly anticipated set, scouring the auditorium crowd like an eagle and hooking them in.

The likes of the brooding Two Birds brought band mate Jennifer Austin’s grand piano work to the fore, revealing that behind the kooky, quaint exterior there is a darkness to Sermanni simmering inside like a witch’s cauldron.

There was Sleep, a haunting lullaby of sorts, the reflective, deft Everything Changes and The Fog, which boomed with cinematic gusto via Austin and Macleod’s backing.

The audience was either held rapt by Sermanni’s throaty-deep yet sweetly-scented vocal work or bobbing in fits of giggles by the Carrbridge musician’s endearing stream of consciousness between-song banter, with lonely tractors and the cycle of the moon all getting a mention.

There was a smattering of new tunes in the set too, which gave credence to the notion that Sermanni – who released her first album Under Mountains in 2012 – is only continuing her steep ascent into notoriety.

And then there were the tiptoes. The Scot, with footwear chucked off onto the stage at start of the set, sporadically lifted herself onto her claws whilst strumming the guitar, owning the stage like a befrocked, friendly giant. You’re not too sure why, but it’s just another idiosyncrasy in Sermanni’s dainty live act.

An engaging and entertaining live act that is probably one of the most compelling you’ll be likely to see at Mareel.

Chris Cope

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