Rob St John, Banshee Labyrinth, Sat 18 Feb
Intimate gig from a new breed of folk troubadour
The first thing to note about the venue for Rob St John’s sell-out gig is how dark, small and shivery it is – it's basically a subterranean cavern which fits perfectly with the haunted alt-folk to come. Support, marred slightly by sound issues, comes from stunning instrumental guitarist Cheer (think RM Hubbert) and more eccentric local collective Hive OA.
As Rob St John assemble on stage the lighting shifts to an apt monochromatic hue; greying tones broken only by the violinist’s day-glow orange lead. Opener – a striking rendition of the ethereal ‘Your Phantom Limb’ – is followed by a swift declaration from the Lancashire raised singer that ‘It’s nice to be back’. Intricate musical landscapes, brimming with melancholy, experimentation and emphatically built crescendos follow, including Weald album tracks ‘Acid Test’ and the mystical ‘Sargasso Sea’. Perhaps a new generation of folk troubadour, St John is primarily a mesmerising performer; exuding the timelessness of a bygone era. A compelling musical synergy also keeps the crowd fixated, minutes of possessed primal drumming/tambourine beating proving truly standout.
Closing on an intimate note, St John steps into a crowd of 'friendly faces', his musicians downing instruments to howl a hearty chorus. As he interweaves the line ‘Farewell Banshee Labyrinth’ it’s fair to say he might have charmed us.