Monday, 28 March 2011

Jennie Sawdon at The Sanctuary, Manchester, March 27th 2011

It's not often in life that two things you really love come together, so when I heard that Jennie Sawdon (she of the remarkable self-made album Fighting the Fairytale) would be playing Popsiculture's regular haunt, Didsbury's The Sanctuary, I decided there and then that I'd make it to see her no matter what.

What neither I nor Popsiculture co-conspirator Dan expected was a night that began with great live music and ended with great live music, but somewhere in the middle turned us into roadies and Sawdon family hangers-on. The impromptu after-party in neighbouring O'Neill's was the perfect way to round off what was really a great night for all involved.

The Performance

The Sanctuary's Sunday night jazz has switched to being once every two weeks after a few months of weekly performances, so make sure it's on if you're heading down there one week. I've caught a couple of the nights and always been impressed by the standard of singers and musicians Sara Dowling finds to perform there. It's not an open mic night or anything - you get one group for the whole night, in two hour-long sessions that now start from about 7pm.

Jennie Sawdon is a local talent who, after training in opera and working as a wedding singer, released her first album Fighting the Fairytale a few months ago. If you've read our review you'll know that it's self-written and on her own label, Little Me Records. It's also been on my Most Played list since I first heard it in February.

So I'll admit I wasn't sure how Jennie's songs would translate from voice-and-piano to jazz-style quartet, but the night worked well. Drums, bass and guitar were all carefully judged to fit around the original tone of the album tracks, while Dan was pretty pleased to hear a few covers thrown in towards the end - and to be fair, the rest of the crowd seemed to enjoy those too.

The star of the show, of course, was Jennie herself - flawless vocals combined with the kind of heartfelt thanks for each round of applause that suggests she doesn't quite realise how good she is. No note was missed, but more impressively, the tracks from Fighting the Fairytale were really done with flair - complete with the atmospheric outro to The Doctor that I mentioned back in February in our review.

It was also good - and important, I think - that Jennie gave the same personal touch to her live performance that went into writing the album. Every track has its own story to tell, and I got the feeling the introductions she gave to a few of her songs were more of a glimpse into their backgrounds than the whole story. My own mention, ahead of the elegant audio ballet that is Echoes, was unexpected and moving.

What Happened Next

I'm not sure what Dan and I were expecting from our Sunday night, but we definitely weren't expecting what happened from 9pm onwards. The part where we went and said hi to Jennie went according to the script - we said hi, we got a hug, Jennie thanked us for our support etc - and then we met the other Sawdons. Jennie's parents and aunt, who were more welcoming than my own family at weddings of the past few years. We varyingly became: spokespeople for the internet in fairly highbrow discussions about online journalism; Sawdon roadies (a life ambition fulfilled, I feel) as we helped lug her gear out to the van - an amp in one hand, high-heels in the other; surrogate sons as we propped up the bar in O'Neill's with the grown-ups; and after-party liggers as we kinda gate-crashed the O'Neill's thing in the first place.

What that second phase of the evening did give us was an idea of why Jennie's music - and particularly her writing - is so heartfelt and moving. Her family are great. Her friends - some of whom were providing the live music at O'Neill's - know how to have a good time. Drink and dancing and dirges; it's the way fun used to be, and it was great to see people still know how to have it.

So Jennie, thank you. For a great performance. For caring enough to look out for us. For the hugs - I do like hugs. If the days to come are echoes of last night, a bright future lies ahead.

Fighting the Fairytale by Jennifer Sawdon is out now on iTunes.

Fighting The Fairytale - Jennifer Sawdon

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