Photography: Lee Willo / @lee_willo_

Sinead O'Brien

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  • Egyptian Blue
Get It Loud In Libraries @ Birkenhead Library 2/2/20

For me, libraries have always been places of subversion. Just like the time my mum walked into my room, aged eight, to a tirade of “fucks” emitting from an audiotape of A Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night Time. Or aged 11, trying to get my head around a borrowed copy of Ginsberg’s Howl, to little avail, leaving my imagination tripped out on lysergic disorientation from the tiny pocket copy –  its themes of peyote trips, sexual liberation and 60s counterculture flying wildly over my head. The awkward exchange when asking for a copy of Ka-tzetnik 135633’s House Of Dolls, aged 13, after becoming obsessed with Joy Division, before retracting my interest after being told I’d have to order from The British Library. Birkenhead Library is a building that shaped me: its content and staff opened entire new worlds for me.

My library card has been lying dust-covered in a drawer for some time, but now, upon entering once more, I’m hit floods of nostalgia. This is quickly broken, however, by EGYPTIAN BLUE. From southern shores, but with the harsh industrial bleakness of late-70s northern towns, they cut through the quiet conversations that hum throughout the room, like a knife. Angular trench coat post punk reverberates through the room, deep Gothic baritones colliding with the clash of Vox Phantoms. The four-piece’s gaunt faces and sepia fashion juxtapose with the vibrant colours of the children’s book display that’s emblazoned behind them on the wall. Young children with bright blue ear defenders run wildly between stage and bookcases, while the intense wall of sound builds, bold and powerful and tight. The band observes the societal norms of libraries and keeps conversation to a minimum, instead letting their sound say everything they need. It’s a short, sharp shock, and then they’re gone, vanishing without a trace back amongst the shelving units.

Sinead O’Brien Image 2

As a storm brews outside the window, grey skies hang heavy over Wirral; but among the books we are safe as SINEAD O’BRIEN takes the stage. Smiles and “thank you”s for coming quickly fade from her face as she enters a transcendental state, poetry flowing out of her. Her Irish brogue swoops and soars between tight riffs and drum rolls. It’s a captivating performance. Hypnotic, in fact, with the aural concoction leaving the audience in a trance-like state. It’s quite unlike anything that’s currently happening musically. Eyes fixed and ears tuning in and out of focus after each song, O’Brien seems to return to her personable self, offering for children to come and dance with warm grins. In a room of a million words, from Joyce to Welsh, the crowd stands fixed, focusing merely on hers.

It’s a day which offers up a golden haze of childhood memories, while also cementing that the future is bright for music, literature and libraries. Maybe I should dust off my card.

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