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Tiny Tin Lady and Rosie Doonan

Drill Hall, Lincoln
Tuesday 30 September 2008

Rosie Doonan opened for Tiny Tin Lady for the final night of their current tour at the Drill Hall in Lincoln tonight. Spirits were high and in no short supply and there was a distinctly cheerful party atmosphere both onstage, backstage and around the building in general. Tiny Tin Lady's infectious personalities brought to the city some of the famous 'talent, charm and chutzpah' that Fairport Convention have been known to speak of. Whilst Rosie performed a handful of songs with her usual emotive fluency, you could feel the bands' colourful presence waiting in the wings, ready to party. It was the final night after all, and a good excuse for a good old knees up. 

Joining Rosie on stage for the first set was Tiny Tin Lady's fiddler Kat Gilmore, who helped kick things off with Rosie's regular opener Need You Around which by no coincidence also appears as the opening song on her excellent debut solo album MOVING ON. Accompanying herself on guitar, Rosie sang just a couple of songs from that album and concentrated mainly on new songs. These Things has been around for a while and indicates perfectly well what Rosie is all about. If there was ever a starting point for new ears to Rosie's music it might as well be this. Self probing, constantly questioning, forever searching for answers to the big questions on the ever present topics of love, relationships, and where to go next. Essentially, moving on. 

I discovered something new tonight about Rosie, something she and I have in common; we both have sisters living in Spain. Unborn Child is a song about having to keep quiet about the news of her sisters' forthcoming baby, 'until three months have passed'. This is wonderfully personal stuff, which is both touching and thought-provoking. There's the underlying brooding of a younger sister who wonders when it will be her turn, her turn to yearn. But of course for the moment, Rosie instead gives birth to another new song. It's always good to hear new songs for the first time, and even better when they are sung and presented to you live.

Towards the end of Rosie's all too short set, all the members of Tiny Tin Lady appeared by her side on stage to join her for The Journey, making a smooth and seamless transition from the sparse arrangements of some of Rosie's most beautiful songs, to the party time that followed directly after.

Tiny Tin Lady are uncompromising in their colourful and wayward stage presence, as they gleefully display their youthful confidence for all to see. Once again we are presented with a band that is difficult to categorise. Inde at the core with certainly a nod towards folk music, highlighted by the inclusion of Kat Gilmore, whose assured fiddle playing has added a new dimension to the overall sound of the original trio of Danni Gibbins, younger sister Beth Reed-Gibbins and bassist Helen Holmes. Tiny Tin Lady explores rhythm and texture with a fearless conviction. Together since 2004, the youthful experimentation has developed into a force to be reckoned with and proves that whatever we are served up on a weekly basis courtesy of TV talent shows, it's always reassuring to know that there are young people out there willing to put in the effort, without having to conform to the outdated whims of a celebrity mentor, who is supposedly working on their behalf. Fairport Convention invited these musicians to join them on the road and at their annual bash at Cropredy, not because they were a novelty act to be exploited, but because they possibly reminded them of the band they once were in the late Sixties, the kind of band that piles into the back of a transit van to live and breathe 'The Road' in all its brutality; yet these are teenage girls, or at least they were when they first started out as a band. 

Un-fazed by the big stage at the Drill Hall, having already played such notable festivals as Glastonbury and Cropredy, as well as touring with Fairport Convention on their 40th anniversary tour last year, the band speak with an irreverence that only the young can get away with. When asked by a woman at the concessions stand where the name Tiny Tin Lady came from, Danni joked that the band were named after a 'sexual position', to which the woman fell back slightly, clearly not expecting this reply. I don't know what amused me more, Danni's cheekiness, or the woman's contorted expression as she tried in vain to recollect such a thing as the 'Tiny Tin Lady position'.

Tonight, the entire RIDICULOUS BOHEMIA album was performed with a smattering of material from the band's first album THE SOUND OF REQUIEM and the inclusion of just one cover, Snap's Rhythm is a Dancer, which incorporated a coda of familiar Nineties dance tunes. Opening with Pretty Eyes the band refused to stand on ceremony, going straight for the power harmonies, immediately, filling the Drill Hall with sound.

The band suffered from just the one short bout of sound trouble during their first set, something that unfortunately comes with acoustic territory. It's just a shame it happened during the klezmer inspired Seven Days of Strip Poker, one of the outstanding songs from the new album. No matter though, the song was rescued by self-determination, dramatic tempo changes and a soaring fiddle, which all go towards demonstrating a remarkable maturity in arrangement and just may point to the direction the band will take. 

There's an exciting dynamism to Tiny Tin Lady, with Danni and Beth's effortless fluid harmony singing, Kat's weaving fiddle and additional voice, Helen's unfussy bass maintaining the often demanding alternating rhythms and last but by no means least on clarinet and keyboards, Sally Street, providing yet another dimension to Tiny Tin Lady's sound. On Blank Literature, which finished the first set, the Gibbins siblings belted out what could be described as a sonic frenzy that really could only have been previously imagined if Bjork ever met up with The Smiths.

After two generously long sets, their 'Tiny Tin Opener' Rosie, rejoined the band on stage for an encore of Moon Moves a goodnight song that not only served as a fitting finisher to the concert, but a fitting conclusion to entire tour. With a chorus of goodnight goodnight, we came dangerously close to a cross between the Von Trapp singers and a closing titles scene from The Waltons. A final encore of Heineken Keg brought the party to an end, although one suspects the party may have gone on into the wee small hours, where Lincoln would have been in no doubt that Tiny Tin Lady had been in town.

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky