Woodpigeon's Mark Hamilton is no stranger to the UK, having lived in Scotland and toured here for yonks. He's built up quite a loyal following, shown at this small, sold out show at St Pancras Old Church.
Tonight, it's just him, guitar and woolly jumper, his band replaced by the old looping trick. It's a slight shame that he's so very solo as it's the harmonies and layers of soothing folksiness that often bring his songs to life. After a bit of a slow start, he finds his stride and we find ourselves lost in that lovely pillow of Woodpigeon again.
Tonight, it's predominantly songs from Hamilton's new album, 'Thumbtacks And Glue', a collection of sweet and uplifting tunes, mainly about death, being buried alive and car crashes. Despite the subject matter, it's unmistakable Woodpigeon. However, the album has been met with mixed reviews, some saying that, this time, his songs don't quite reach the dizzying heights of euphoric loveliness of his previous. It's the same live. There's a fear as the opener comes to an end that tonight is going to be some winding folk songs that fails to penetrate the heart or mind. And looping... that's so five years ago, right? Nope! Luckily, by the third song in – a version of traditional folk song ‘Don’t Fence Me In’ - Hamilton finds his stride and his voice, and the looping, layering his velvet tones over simple picking, is mesmerising.
There are songs about Canada, songs about becoming a man and breaking a foot in Edinburgh, and songs sticking two fingers up to politicians... all in heavy knitwear.
An additional treat is a new song written with a new band formed in everyone's favourite creative paradise, Iceland. It needs a little more practice, but the tale of eating fermented whale, goat head jam and "rotten faces looking up at you" is a real gem of the evening.
Hamilton is joined towards the end of his set by support Collectress who were simply superb. The quartet of multi-instrumentalists on flute, cello, violin, piano and occasional vocals, painting pictures of '60s supernatural horror films featuring spooky toy makers, results in something very different to a solo Hamilton, maybe even preferable. Hamilton's voice is special, unique even, and his songs are pretty, twee and soulful, but they really rise out of the sea of other folky songsters when accompanied by a haunting string or lone cello, especially in such a magical setting.
Words by Gemma Hampson
Photo by Paolo Calamita