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Review: Dawn Landes at The Cluny 2

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Dawn Landes

It was a bitterly cold January evening when Brooklyn-based songstress Dawn Landes made her Newcastle debut at The Cluny 2. Had she not came so highly recommended I might have chosen to stay home and keep warm, but a few pretty, mellow songs into her set, I was glad to have braved the weather.

Before Dawn was Mush, a folky band consisting of four ordinary-looking people singing and playing a piano, a bass guitar, a cello and a violin – the latter being particularly striking. They breezed through a 40-minute set with a fascinating mixture of songs, from eerie murder ballads to heartfelt love letters to the sea. Their arrangements were reminiscent of dramatic musical theatre at times and the personal anecdotes attached to songs like The Smell Of Time and Northumberland made the performance that little bit more endearing. All in all, they were a wonderful band to prepare the crowd for the performance that followed.

Dawn took to the stage in a floating scarlet dress with her hair pulled neatly back into a ponytail. From the get-go, she had the audience in the palm of her hand – her American charm was infectious as her sweet voice filled the little venue.

This current tour takes Dawn all over the UK and coincides with the recent release of her Covers EP, where she takes on songs from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Roxy Music and Dolly Parton. She performed Moon River mid-set and it was stunning. Taking on Moon River may be seen as a risk, but it was one that she did with the utmost confidence and sophistication. It certainly paid off and she seemed genuine in thanking the crowd for their applause.

Long performances with just a guitar and a vocal can sometimes become tedious towards the end of the night, but Dawn managed to include enough variation in her set to maintain the crowd’s attention, encouraging them to sing along where they could and even incorporating an elegant French ballad. There was a friendly atmosphere in the Cluny 2 and although she’s been on stages much bigger than this (she recently supported Brian Ferry in the US), it seemed right that there was an intimacy about the room.

She left the stage but was back almost instantly for an encore, which she seemed to make up as she went along. It included a fun rendition of Dolly Parton’s Longer Than Always and ended with a slow waltz, written when she was missing her hometown of Kentucky. It may have been a dull and icy journey to The Cluny, but discovering such a natural and undeniable talent made it worth my while.

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