Live Review: Daphne’s Flight at The Crescent, York

Three cheers for Chris Euesden, who has worked quietly in York for thirty years as a music label owner, promoter of gigs, songwriter and Dylan enthusiast with his band, Blonde on Bob. Chris has also been involved for many years with the Black Swan Folk Club, and this gig brought one of his long-term colleagues, Julie Matthews, along with her collaborators who make up Daphne’s Flight.  

Review by Miles Salter, who fronts the York band Miles and The Chain Gang and is Director of York Alive

The band are a sort of folky-female supergroup. Matthews is joined by long time collaborator Chris While, as well as Miranda Sykes, Helen Watson and Melanie Harrold. Between them they have many decades of experience as songwriters and performers. This is soft-focus folky goodness. Nothing too brutish or experimental – the songs are homely, melodic and catchy. Think Kate Rusby, Eddi Reader or Indigo Girls, and you’re in the right ball park. Indeed, Julie Matthew appeared with Kate Rusby in one of Chris’ former projects, Intuition, thirty years ago. 

What I liked about this gig was how five talented songwriters showed great respect for each other. Although Matthews and While are probably the leaders, the style was entirely democratic. Each performer had their moments in the sun – they took it in turn to introduce songs and be the lead vocalist. The respect they afforded each other was dignified and palpable. You could really feel their enjoyment of each other’s talents, between them handling vocals, guitars, acoustic bass, percussion, keyboards and harmonica. The played songs from their new album, the cutely named Love is The Weapon Of Choice, including the country-tinged Tyre Tracks in the Snow.  There were moments of self-deprecation that the audience enjoyed. Introducing one of her songs, Chris While quipped: ‘Those of you who have known me for a while will know I have had more than one period of bitterness.’ 

I’m Sick of this Shit unfortunately, proved John Keats’ observation that ‘we hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us.’ The song’s plea for a world in which women are treated with greater respect by their male counterparts is a notion that few would disagree with, but it came across as a ham-fisted swipe at men in general, and sat uncomfortably within a set that was mostly made up of feel-good songs about not judging each other and love being the answer. Protest songs are very, very hard to do well, but a more nuanced and metaphorical approach would have helped here – something like Ralph McTell’s excellent Peppers and Tomatoes (which tackles racial hatred). There were no qualifying statements about the majority of men who are admirable fathers, husbands, brothers, friends and colleagues and do not seek to control or abuse women. 

Apart from this stodgy moment, though, this was a very good evening. Daphne’s Flight are excellent performers, great at the close harmonies, and their vocal prowess is the star of the show. A nod, too, to Richard Harrison, the band’s touring sound engineer, who provided a brilliant intimacy and warmth in the sound – not an easy thing to do with a few hours’ notice. Respect to Chris Euesden. He just keeps on trucking.