Apr 1 2024

The Breath 2024

Plus support Caoilfhionn Rose

Friday 16th February 2024

Review, photos and videos by Keith Belcher

Opening for The Breath (by direct request of The Breath) was Caoilfhionn Rose (pronounced Keelin) , acompanied by Rich Williams. Born in Manchester with roots in Northern Ireland & Yorkshire. Two Albums released so far, Truly and Awaken. On the night Caoilfhionn sang lead vocals, played keyboards and acoustic guitar. Rich mainly played guitar but was also instrumental in creating a diverse multi layered sonic pallette to accompany Caoilfhionn’s songs.

A review I read on highgherplainmusic.com expresses her music better than I can.

“The mixture of airbrushed ambient, folk music and gentle psychedelia means that whilst melodies may seem straight forward at first, they are deceptively deep underneath. Not a single song is a straightforward piece”. Caoilfhionn’s short opening set got a great response form the TLR crowd at yet another sold out show.

(Next came) the very welcome return visit of The Breath, first here in November 2021. The Breath are Manchester based Ríoghnach Connolly and Stuart McCallum. Ríoghnach described their show as “our miserable cabaret”. Don’t believe it. It’s anything but miserable, yes the songs are deep, intensely personal, sometimes very sad, dealing with very emotive issues but the experience of seeing and hearing The Breath is anything but miserable!

A one set format tonight as we had already enjoyed Caoilfhionn Rose and Rich Williams. The show opened with Ditty, a gentle guitar and shruti box with Ríoghnach humming, eventually leading into Ríoghnach’s flute. This segued into a far louder and faster strummed guitar intro to Hideout. If a Breath virgin you started to get an idea of the range and power of Ríoghnach’s vocals and Stuart’s dexterity and skill on guitar.

Don’t Rush It followed with some superb reverb usage and a totally different side to Ríoghnach’s vocals on For You. The first real intro of the night belonged to Cliona’s Wave , an adaptation of Celtic Myth about Cliona (Cliodhna) , Celtic Goddess of the sea , member of the Tuatha De Danaan, daughter (legends vary, some say he adopted her) of Manannan. The story is she fell in love with a mortal and for him, left the magical island of Tairngire (the land of promise), the Gods were miffed at this and ensorcelled her into a deep sleep and a large wave swept her back to Tairngire (sorry about detail but I love Celtic Mythology!). In no version of the tale (that I know of) was the mortal known as Kevin. I think Ríoghnach might have made that part up.

A beautiful song and performance . Needless to say the intro raised a lot of laughs from the audience . Ríoghnach has one of the most infectious and wicked laughs you will hear. The applause had not stopped before they launched into Antwerp. There was much amusement in the audience as Ríoghnach spotted Ron (Pengelly) photographing and decided to pose for him , he captured the shots which are excellent and can be seen on TLR Facebook Group Page below as “The many faces of Ríoghnach Connolly”.

Antwerp was a complete change of pace with a harsher tone of voice and delivery. Stuart delved into loops and electronic wizardry building to a crescendo. Stuart apologised for the racket but said he thoroughly enjoyed it (as did we all, Stuart!). A very humourous intro to Carry Your Kin with both Ríoghnach’s and Stuart’s beaming smiles and banter warming the audience. Ríoghnach’s voice raging from whispers to roars and very effortlessly.

Next up were two album title tracks Land Of My Other and Carry Your Kin . A change of pace on Land Of My Other, a song about detachment from family reflecting Ríoghnach’s 20 plus years in Manchester away from the family home in Armagh, very personal and just beautiful. For many the highlight of the night may have been Bríd Bhán, an absolutely beautiful Donegal song about a row between husband and wife. Ríoghnach’s flute playing was sublime. I would love to hear that song with a set of uilllean pipes pitched into the mix.

The audience were given the option of visiting the loo if they didn’t like Donegal Irish songs….I didn’t see anyone doing so! The gaelic hides the actual story though like me most would just enjoy the sound, lyrics being superflous (unless you speak Irish gaelic). Another intensely personal song Little One followed about love, loss and joy, Ríoghnach’s vocal range and Stuarts instrumentation emphasising the emotional range of the song.

So it continued until the show finished with Only Stories, thankfully no pantomime performance of leaving the stage and returning a minute later. It was a superb night. It left you feeling very good and that’s what live music is for. It makes you feel!.

“The last note fades away but my heart keeps on singing,

inside my head the music keeps on ringing,

And free from this brave new world’s uncertainties and lies,

in a far better place my spirit flies

Don’t know what music means to you,

but that’s what music means to me,

It can capture my heart , yet somehow set it free,

It can tear to me to pieces , yet somehow make me whole ,

It gives me hope and feeds my soul”

The Last Note by Eric Bogle

Video by Keith Belcher

The Breath: Brid Bhan and Antwerp

Caoilfhionn Rose: Garden