LIVE REVIEW: The Rainbow Girls, Nev Clay @ Live Theatre, Newcastle (25.9.15) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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If not all of the capacity crowd of 56 crammed into the upstairs Studio room of the Live Theatre were aware of local songwriter Nev Clay before tonight’s show, you can guarantee that everybody went home a fan. During an intimate acoustic set that drew from 22 years of experience around the local music scene, Nev treated us to stories both funny and sad regarding his career as a mental health nurse, whilst making highly skilled guitar playing look simple. Leaving Do, about a workplace crush – “I loved you in a quiet way” – is a highlight, but there are also songs about regrettable football tattoos and a Joni Mitchell cover to keep us entertained in a captivating, yet simplistic, performance.

The Rainbow Girls first wowed us at the SummerTyne Festival back in 2013. Despite being shorn down from a 5-piece to 4, they lose none of the raucous spirit that their sun-drenched Northern Californian eclecticism brought to the banks of the River Tyne that day. Instead, they bolstered it with an added air of intimacy brought to the small stage. From the acapella beauty of Stars – “I wish there were more stars in the city” – to the playful psychedelia of The Naked Song, the band are clearly enjoying themselves as much as the crowd as they play choice cuts from this summer’s sophomore record, Perceptronium, whilst also having the confidence to forge ahead with new unreleased songs.

One such new track is Ueno River, dedicated tonight to their former bandmate in an amusing – yet thinly veiled – swipe, questioning whether you should follow “your head or your heart.” She-Bop Nation is another that sees the Rainbow Girls calling the shots: “you’re a cocky motherfucker, ain’t never met no guitar player quite like you” had us all wondering just who it is they’re singing about. As the girls continued to alternate instruments and styles more often than some bands do in a career, there was an added edge to their live performance, turning the laid back studio version of No Girls Allowed – “there were no women in my favourite bands, no fucking women at all” – into a punked-out set highlight.

Getting amongst the crowd for acoustic renditions of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s classic Proud Mary and a new song, Can We Keep This Love Alive, capped a wonderful night of folk music at its very best: intimate, honest, experimental and featuring all the colours of the rainbow.

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