Live Reviews

Published on September 4th, 2014 | by Mike Ainscoe



Halifax Square Chapel 29.8.14

After being a bit of a fan of Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow from a distance, 2014 has become a bit of an O’H&T-fest. I caught them earlier this year down at my local – an impressive intimate performance at The Met – and there was also the chance to catch their two appearances at the Cambridge Folk Festival playing two different sets to enthusiastic audiences in packed tents.

Taking another chance to see them again necessitated a slow trip across the 62 to Halifax where a late arrival (7.30 on the ticket these days MEANS a 7.30 start) meant that after finding parking, the only thing we missed was the intro from one of the local reps for the evening’s  deserved charity, the local branch of Parkinson’s UK.

I don’t know if it was me but both Heidi and Belinda seemed to  be even more ‘Yorkshire’ than usual being on home turf – their natural dialect a little more emphasised and pronounced particularly in the songs themselves. Maybe it was the homely feel of the event with friends and relatives in the audience – Belinda’s dad taking his seat centre front and naturally taking a bow when introduced. His singing and his home being the inspiration behind ‘Down From The Moor’ (although the more correct Irish terminology of ‘Down From The Bog’ raised a titter or two)

The delivery of a new song written especially at the request of Billy Bragg for their set at this year’s Glastonbury, and the only performance aside from that was a bonus. Naturally I forgot to note the title although it was based on a rather interesting female character who delivered Morris dancing tuition to injured troops from the Great War. That’s probably a vast over simplification which doesn’t do the story or the song justice, but watch out for it in future sets once it becomes established. For the rest of the evening it was a well-established set of songs which ranged from the music hall humour of pensioners day trips and real ale to the touchingly sensitive – and of course their ‘folk’ take on Massive Attack.

ohooley2Part of the O’H&T experience though is the banter; the between song patter which has its reference points in the stories behind the songs and the introductions, yet there’s always the sense of natural wit and unrehearsed asides which add an extra dimension to the entertainment. Tonight’s gems included one cracker right at the start when Heidi made the most innocent of opening comments:  “Is there anyone here…….who’s seen us before?” only for Belinda to add: “I thought you were going to say is there anyone here….with Parkinson’s.”  There was also the racey, “she likes to correct me…..but we won’t go there” nugget when Heidi chastised Belinda over the accuracy of some comment. Not sure how sharp the audience were with that one but it made some of us snigger.

After a raffle, including 3 O’H&T CDs as three separate prizes and some lovely ladies gloves and notelets, which gave  the whole event a ‘proper’ folk club vibe, the second half had a distinctly more relaxed, dare I say  raucous atmosphere, fuelled no doubt by  the real ale at the bar, and very nice it was too. Apparently, the venue has its own microbrewery but again, the name escapes me – it could have been Stage Manner yet I remember it was a 3.5% pale ale and was quite nice and naturally gave the pair a chance to plug their ‘Summat’s Brewing’ song, a celebration of the real ale revolution. Being an audience which may have been slightly unfamiliar with the O’H&T set, Belinda was slightly perturbed after her mid song Wakeman-like piano solo (I clapped and cheered but no-one followed) went unappreciated (“They didn’t clap”) – simple, just do it again!

They finished off the evening quite appropriately with their song inspired by Halifax resident Anne Lister, whose ‘Gentleman Jack’ diaries from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century have been described as “the Dead Sea scrolls of lesbian history”. For once, we were positioned in the auditorium to be on the side of ‘Team Tidow’ in the singalong ending. To my ears and being sat at the back I don’t think we did too well, but it might have sounded better onstage.

Fast becoming a Yorkshire institution alongside Boycott and Parkinson (that’s Michael, not the illness), next time I’ll be taking along my bells to shake during ‘Pass It On’. Belinda and Heidi will be back in our local area on 26th November at the Royal Northern College of Music. No doubt there will be a reminder and a tempting little track on the Sonic Bandwagon nearer the time.

Photos by Mike Ainscoe


About the Author

Mike's mellowed in his old age, discovering the delights of traditional folk and acoustic music and the constant stream of new music coming through his passion as a gig-goer, music photographer and writer. With favourite artists and favourite songs which change daily, even hourly, he adds another spoke to the Sonic Bandwagon wheel of fortune.

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