Gig Review: Gemma Hayes @ The Olympic Studios, Barnes – 27/01/2015

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Gemma Hayes is playing an intimate showcase gig in front of an audience of fifty at the iconic Olympic Studios in Barnes. as part of the promotional campaign for her current album Bones and Longing

Review by Mark Kelly

(Pictures by Lorenzo Arena)


Gemma Hayes is an artist who perhaps has not received the level of recognition that she deserves. This may change with her current album Bones and Longing, which is a particularly fresh sounding collection. As part of the promotion for this album, Gemma is playing an intimate showcase gig in front of an audience of fifty at the iconic Olympic Studios in Barnes.

As this is a special gig, Gemma goes off piste with the set list, opening with two covers: These Days by Jackson Browne and Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. However, her style is sufficiently individual to make each song her own. Gemma Hayes 1 - 27012015
She follows more regularly trodden paths with Shock To My System and Back Of My Hand, before essaying Ran For Miles from her first album. Gemma hasn’t practised this and there’s a slight hiccup halfway through, much to the amusement of all. It doesn’t matter. With a gig this small and with many of the audience sitting in armchairs, it feels as if she’s playing in somebody’s living room to a bunch of friends.

We have a bit of a treat in store as Gemma brings Paul Noonan of Printer Clips (and Bell XI) onstage. Together they play Snowman (which Gemma sang on the Printer Clips album) and Some Surprise (also by Printer Clips) before finishing with To Be Your Honey from Bones &Longing.

This is a civilised and unrushed gig, so we have an interval before the fun begins again.

The second set commences with the very delicate Ruin from Let It Break. Gemma sings this without her guitar and seems terribly exposed and fragile. A song each from Bones and Longing and Let It Break sandwich Oliver, the title track of the self-same EP. This is a sing about bullying and heartbreak, which is all the more moving after we are told the story behind it.

After a marvellously percussive Keep Running, Paul Noonan returns for Printer Clips’ My Rome is Burning which is followed by a magnificent rendition of Kate Bush’s Cloudbusting. Again, this is not a slavish attempt to replicate the original, but is another example of Gemma imprinting her own personality upon the song. The sense of dynamics in the song is stunning: pin-drop delicate one moment, absolutely roaring the next! Gemma Hayes 2 - 27012015

The encore is Dark Moon, a highlight from the current album Bones & Longing.That an artist such as Gemma Hayes now appears to have such an ‘underground’ following is utterly astonishing. Maybe the next few months will change that.

Mark Kelly