Horse: The Same Sky #30 at The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh tonight is a celebration of many things, but also, as the title tells us, we are celebrating the a milestone anniversary of the first album from Horse, and the first single, 'You Could Be Forgiven' too .
The last few years have seen, along with this one, some major landmarks in the life and career of Horse – a significant birthday year, and last year the tour to celebrate 25 years of the follow up album to this first album – “God’s Home Movie”. The reason I reference the follow up album in this review is that, for me, they can easily be viewed with hindsight as a double album as the quality of songwriting skills in both from both Horse and Angela McAlinden marked a creative high-point in music at the time, and that bench-mark of quality is still there for all new songwriters to try and get close to. The fact that the songs from both these albums have obviously stood the test of time over the years is a tribute to their original quality. As the songs from “The Same Sky” were performed by a tight band, added strings, and of course the power-house voice of Horse, it is obvious that this audience has taken these songs to their hearts over the years and that for many, these songs are not just songs, but words of real strength and hope to them too. These songs were written by writers who understood human emotions, and the secret fears and insecurities that so many of us have, but are unable to express in words, and these songs have the power to do that for us.
There is little that you can say about songs like, “The Speed Of The Beat Of My Heart”, “Breathe Me”, “Sweet Thing”, and of course, “Careful”, except that they are examples of wonderful words combining with very special music to create something of real value in an all too often throw away “pop song of the moment” music industry. These songs are very much in the writing style of those wonderful “chansons Françaises” of past years immortalised by the great Edith Piaf and other French singers. These songs by Horse and Angela McAlinden are also from the heart and perfectly paced three or four minute stories of windows and insights into the lives of the “real people” in the songs. Like Piaf, Horse has the ability to live the stories of these songs out on stage as she performs them.
There was of course more to this show over its non-stop two hours of on-stage performance than just the one album and, as Horse quite rightly told us, the problem with the songs is not what to put into a show like this, but deciding what ones you have to leave out. An obvious (well to me anyhow) song that had to be on the set-list tonight was there, “God’s Home Movie”, but there are just so many other carefully crafted songs that prove that these early recording years were just glimpses of the songs that were yet to come.
Whenever Horse decides to do her own version of someone else’s songs (you can never really call these cover songs as they are never trying to imitate the original), the results are always interesting, and here, the Glen Campbell classic "Wichita Lineman" was as good an example as any of this ability to make something different, but still stay true to the original source material; of course when you have a song like this written by a master songwriter like Jimmy Webb, it is always going to be written so well that it is open to many interpretations and still tell the story.
Apart from the obvious music, words and careful attention to production and sound quality of any show, one of the reasons I always enjoy a Horse concert is watching that immediate connectivity between her and the audience. This is something very rare and special, and there is always that feeling at any show that both Horse and her audience have been there for each other through good times and bad times, and that each has over the years drawn strength from the other when needed. Perhaps this is why any show I have been to over the past few years always has that very “safe and warm” atmosphere to it. People know they are amongst other people who are accepting them for who they are, and this is what is at the core of every song ever written and recorded by Horse; love truly is blind, it does not care where you come from, what colour, or any of the many other irrelevancies out there. If you find love and happiness with that one special person in your life that is all that matters and no one has the right to judge you for your choice.
Opening the show this eveneing, winner of the BBC Radio Scotland Singer/Songwriter Award 2019 Mike McKenzie, and it will be interesting to hear what more music he will to create in the coming years.
Review by Tom King