Amy Macdonald at York Barbican

Scottish singer-songwriter and guitarist Amy Macdonald played the York Barbican on 29 March 2017.

By George Alexander Moss

Photos by Chris Mackins

Macdonald impacted the music scene in 2007 with her debut album This is the Life, which flew to number one in the UK. After achieving a consistent string of other major music milestones and albums, the Scottish singer released Under Stars ten years later, which blitzed the mainstream charts. Consequently, when the merry York portion of those fans chose to spend the evening with such a spirited leading artist, an unforgettable night was simply destined to be.

York Barbican was rammed with fans of all ages, who shared a fever-pitched energy that built as the night progressed. Macdonald has certainly cast a wide net in her listener demographics, with fans ranging from their early teens all the way up to the elderly. The sold-out venue was fully prepared to be mesmerised by Macdonald, but that sensation surprisingly began before Macdonald even stepped on stage.

English singer-songwriter and musician Newton Faulkner strolled on stage, operating as Macdonald’s incredible warm up act. He performed alone but with the force of a band playing some songs that were not finished in writing, yet somehow felt complete. Faulkner employed his voice, hands, and feet to deliver a succession of slick numbers. He used one foot to control the drum rhythm, then used ‘synth foot’ to establish a smooth electronic twang down low while plucking away at his guitar in a blur of awesome. His voice scoffed in the face of microphone technology, roaring out like a majestic lion at the top of pride rock. His demeanour calmed to a soft-spoken kitten for the chats between songs, showcasing wits, humility, and talent all at once. Faulkner did more than warm up the crowd; he shook us, slapped us silly and we thanked him kindly for it. After dropping a bomb of brilliance on the barbican he sauntered off, but soon Macdonald and her band appeared through the smoke like superheroes, armed with guitars, ukuleles, keyboards, and drumsticks.

The Barbican held a strong communal energy throughout, with Macdonald commenting that she could oddly see every single audience member clearer than other gigs due to the raised seating. There was nowhere to hide, the atmosphere was shared and intimate. Macdonald employed her personable demeanour just as efficiently as she tuned one of her five hundred odd guitars.

Not only did Macdonald exceed all expectations, but her songs were effectively bolstered by her band. Shannon Harris, Sam Lewis, Jimmy Sims, Matt Racher, and Tom Kirkpatrick guided the proceedings with masterful ability, whacking out guitar solos and drumbeats that seemed unrivalled in class, speed, and sound. They were strong musicians that didn’t play keep up with the main act, but performed in slick synchronisation, all an equal part of the whole. After an audience member heckled a request, Macdonald quipped this wasn’t karaoke, and belted out tracks such as Dream On, Under Stars, and Automatic with powerful grace. In particular, the addition of the live band gave Down By The Water an extra jolt of energy that resonated throughout the Barbican. Slow It Down got everyone singing along despite the nuanced rhythms, and the whole venue roared out tunes with delight. The newer songs were extremely translatable to live touring, and Macdonald is easily an artist that performs as well as she does in her recorded material. The energy, talent and the raw power of her voice is all there on display, with not a single drawback or quibble surfacing at all.

What was seen was almost as incredible as what was heard. The playing of Macdonald’s classic tunes inspired dad-dancing by the stage. The sight was both hilarious and heart-warming, as the older tunes of the noughties defied all misery and lifted the room into sheer, unashamed and unembarrassed merriment. The old danced with the young, and old fans sang with the new. Simply put, Macdonald’s music created community.

Newton Faulkner and Amy MacDonald played at York Barbican on Wednesday 29 March 2017.