LIVE REVIEW: Haley Bonar @ Cluny | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Maryland native Michael Nau and his three-piece band treat the Cluny main room tonight to laid back Americana vibes and it’s hard not to warm to their calypso sound, conjuring up unlikely images of sun, sea, sand and sangria.  At his best Nau comes over all Jeff Tweedy on us, recalling Wilco’s early y’alternative era, but it can all get a little samey as songs run into each other at the same tempo  and with the same sun drenched  melancholia.

Haley Bonar relocated from Canada to Minnesota and the same state of lakes that had such an influence on the likes of Westerberg, Dylan and Prince has clearly had an effect on the artist occasionally known as Haley with the release of her two best records to date, 2014’s Last War and last year’s Impossible Dream.

It’s these two records that she mainly draws from tonight, from the Cat Power-esque dark lullaby of From A Cage to the folksy lament of Hometown. Anybody who had witnessed Haley’s early evening acoustic set at Reflex CD &Vinyl had been treated to a singer songwriter with a preciously delicate voice, and wallflower demeanour, but the Haley we see backed by her tight bandmates in the Cluny tonight is a far different proposition.

In a rare moment of interaction with the audience, Haley comments that was recently asked in an interview what people could expect from her shows. She replied, “Distortion and feelings,” and that’s a fair summary of her plugged in live show. Impossible Dreams’ Kismet Kill has a relentless hook with a breathy vocal that recalls Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval whilst Last War’s Kill The Fun does anything but.

It’s all killer, no filler, low on thrills but high on balls to the wall Amerindie as Haley’s breathtakingly tight 4-piece band crank up the energy, all dressed in black but illuminated by their own personal on-stage vintage filament bulbs. Haley had earlier in the day had to turn down a request for Bad Reputation from the same titled EP, but by tonight’s show she’s done her “homework,” and it turns out to be one of the set’s highlights, full of angst and melody.  Finishing off the night with a cover of Wreckless Eric’s Whole Wide World, Haley sheds her ever-present guitar for a tambourine and a cracking show is finished off with smiles all round. 

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