Gig Review: MAZ O’CONNOR @ The Green Note Cafe, Camden – 04/10/2015

Maz O'Connor 1 Having caught Maz O’Connor’s performance at a fundraiser, Mark K made sure to catch her gig at the Camden Green Note; here’s what he made of it…

 

I’d been impressed by Maz O’Connor when she played a short set at the Body & Soul Fundraiser in July, and had made a mental note to find out more about her work. So when I discovered she was playing a venue as intimate as the Green Note, well, I had to be there!

The first thing that Maz tells us when she takes to the stage is that she’s going to take off her high heels. Apparently she went on a course with Steve Knightly from Show Of Hands, and he encouraged performers to make their audience “feel safe”. Presumably playing in her stockinged feet makes Maz seem less threatening! Maz O'Connor 3
In fact Maz isn’t at all threatening – indeed she’s quite the opposite. Her between song banter is natural and very entertaining – we even get jokes! For example: “Why do Marxists only drink green tea? Because proper tea is theft!” Geddit?
However, the main reason we’re here is for Maz’s music, and that’s very impressive indeed. Her vocals are extraordinarily clear and pure sounding. It isn’t being over-complimentary to compare her to Sandy Denny, and with her use of open tunings her guitar playing is reminiscent of, amongst others, Roy Harper.

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Maz is also a talented songwriter, as witnessed on A Winter’s Blues, which was written whilst suffering from a hangover after a trip from London to the Isle of Mull. However, the absolute highlight is what Maz describes as “the inevitable death row suffragette song”: Derby Day. This song tells of the death of suffragette Emily Davison, who perished beneath the hooves of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913. However, the tale is told from the point of view of a young boy sitting on his father’s shoulders, and who is thrown to the ground when it becomes apparent what is going to happen. This approach makes the song particularly moving, especially when remarks are heard from members of the crowd to the effect that Davison was selfish in forcing the crowd to witness her death!

Maz O'Connor 2 As well as being a solo performer, Maz also works with the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS), whose aim is to place the traditional folk arts of England at the heart of English culture. In connection with this she often plays to children in schools. On one of these occasions, Maz asked the children what they thought a folk singer was. Back came the priceless answer: “someone who makes music whilst not being famous”! Indeed, one of the songs towards the end of her first set is Barcelona, which according to Maz is about “travelling around being a folk singer, and not being famous”. For Awake Awake she unleashes another weapon from her musical armoury – an accordion. Or as she describes it, her “shrieky box”. So only a little self-deprecating then!

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The second set features Crook Of His Arm, which is a charming song about how her father would hold her in the crook of his arm when she was a baby. Whilst the first set concentrated largely on Maz’s current album This Willowed Light, this set leans more toward her debut album Upon A Stranger Shore. A particular stand-out is The Singing Of The Ocean which Maz describes as ‘a complaint song’ – young women complaining about young men. However, the set closes with the song that closes the current album: Nightcap. This is a song about the seductive possibilities of being able to sing and play guitar. A future Maz O’Connor classic methinks. Maz O'Connor 1

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After a strummy encore of Wonderful World, time is called, although I think Maz would have played all night if permitted! For once the description ‘rising star’ is not misapplied. Maz is a prodigious talent who deserves to be sitting at the top table. If there’s any justice in this world, she won’t be singing about “not being famous” for long.

Mark Kelly

 

Check out more reviews by Mark K here…