Review of her gig in Whelan's, Dublin, July 12th, 2001
The last time I saw Gemma Hayes before tonight's gig was with about 30 other people in Doyles pub on a Tuesday night in the depths of winter as part of the Ruby Sessions. Tonight saw her play to a packed Whelan's. As a certainMr. Gray discovered, word of mouth can be a marvellous thing. So how did she fare?
The short answer to that is fantastically well. She took everything in her stride, and at her own pace, including an extremely inefficient and unfunny heckler. It helps to have one of the best bands in the business playing with her. Brothers Dave (the Frames) and Karl (ex Mary-Janes, various bands now) Odlum playing guitar and bass respectively and Paul from Bell X1 (possibly the most talented drummer around) providing backing vocals as well as taking drumming responsibilities. The backing vocals are a treat, with his and Gemma's voices perfectly suited to each other.
Before tonight, most people would have been accustomed to seeing Gemma playing support to various people around Dublin with only her guitar for company. However having a band with her tonight meant the songs took on a different complexion, with Gemma unafraid to let loose, and put her guitar through a fuzz pedal. This meant we saw a Gemma who rocked, as well as the one you can listen to when you come in at 4:35am after a night out.
Her songs stood up to scrutiny, encompassing the Irish nation's favourite themes of love (I Can't Find Love), nature (The Lucky One) and religion (My God). Some people might claim that explorations of such themes are unoriginal and past their sell-by date, but I believe that as long as the writing is sound, who cares what the themes are? And believe me, the writing was VERY sound.
The highlights of the night for me were Dave's slide guitar on Evening Sun (a song that you could easily see becoming a summer anthem) and my favourite song of Gemma's, Stop The Wheel, which finished up the night. Rather endearingly she wanted to stop with that, because she felt that as they had run out of rehearsed material, if they continued on, the gig would have ended on a farcical, downbeat note!
Tonight encompassed everything that's great about Gemma, her wry lyrics (an approximation of one song's being "He was getting married on the Wednesday, and he was buried on the Monday, his girlfriend is due in three weeks, she's my cousin, my mothers gone off the rails, she's praying that the child will have straight teeth"), and beautifully picked guitar, which built up to a magnificent rock-out with the mantra "My sweet prayers they ain't doing nothing?",a mantra which at this rate will have to be altered to reflect the growth rate she is having.
My only hope is that Source (her label) do not start marketing her as an extremely pretty woman who can sing and write songs, because in reality she's an amazing songwriter who just happens to be pretty.
Jump to a review of Gemma's debut album 'Night on my side'.