Photography: Kevin Barrett / kevbarrett

Rossa Murray & The Blowin' Winds

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  • ΔNNA
The Athenaeum 5/6/21

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Much like the royal red of the venue, the atmosphere of The Athenaeum is warm and welcoming. A chandelier frames the stage, casting diffracted light on the audience’s chattering faces, who are catching up on lost time. Most noticeable is the fresh scent which contrasts the customary wild gig smell of spilt beers and sweaty moshpits. Instead, the set-up is more like a live show in a pub – quirky, personal and exclusive.

ΔNNA, the first act, fits this environment perfectly. Starting in an endearingly self-conscious way, she soon draws the attention of the crowd. As she effortlessly finger-picks her way through the songs, her confidence increases and the smile on her face gets wider and more compelling. She manages to take up the space by use of her homemade backing tracks and her dexterous guitar-playing. There’s empowerment within the cynical lyrics, notably evident in Not Your Girl. A sassy, bass-driven track, it crowns the performance and leaves the audience with a lasting impression.

The room doesn’t appear to notice as the long French windows introduce us to night-time as ROSSA MURRAY & THE BLOWIN’ WINDS walk onto the stage. It’s only at this point that the dichotomy of a fine establishment and plastic cups become apparent. Wearing bohemian shirts over plain t-shirts, the band colours the stage in oranges, purples and blues. Although the music is well suited to the setting, their fans seem more used to rowdy loud concerts. Yet, the comfort the band exhibits as they begin their set settles around the room like a blanket.

The shadowed silhouettes of the band members meet on the wall behind the stage, mirroring the coming together of the harmonies and the harmonious development of the night. Their passionate head-shaking draws you in as much as the evocative lyrical story-telling does. The lively stage banter and remarks about paying for a parking ticket don’t detract from how charged even the absence of noise is. Each aspect of the performance unfurls into a new resounding curiosity, with guitar layering, a cover of Passionfruit by Drake and the introduction of a trumpet. As the lead singer belts out the notes, I’m reminded of Paolo Nutini, singing of experiences that only come with age. This band knows where their music sits and gladly runs with it.

The final song is met in the form of a solo ode to Liverpool. Dedicated to Rossa Murray’s oldest pal, the crowd sings along loudly to Sophie, in a carefree Irish pub kind of way. Those who don’t know the lyrics sit in awe, content in the here and now.

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