Horse and her band stopped off at The Queen’s Hall on a clear, crisp but cold November night as part of their 2017 tour, bringing with them songs from a near thirty year career in music that defines Horse McDonald as one of the most gifted singer/songwriters that Scotland has produced in many years.
Opening with the Jimmy Webb classic “Wichita Lineman”, Horse, backed with an impressive band, swiftly moved onto the wealth of material from her own back catalogue; songs which fans over the years have truly taken into their heart - “Careful”, “God's Home Movie” (25th anniversary in 2018) and “The Speed of the Beat of My Heart" being only a few of the many in this set. I have a rule here about never giving away too many of a performer’s songs in a review of their set performance as there should be surprises still awaiting anyone going to one of the shows, but I am giving nothing away here by saying that the songs here span everything from the first album onwards, so this is a show that any true Horse fan should not miss (or anyone that just likes great, skillfully crafted songs).
This show saw Horse in strong vocal form throughout and giving 100% of herself on-stage, but more importantly than that, an artist at ease with herself and her audience. Refreshing to see a performer who despite commercial and critical success still has never moved apart from her audience and stayed firmly accessible to everyone. There was a friendliness to this show that created a rapport with the audience that I have seen few performers achieve, and that continued with some genuinely heartfelt dedications for audience members, and after the show with Horse happily signing merchandise and having photos taken with fans.
There is an enormous power and vocal range to Horse’s voice, and here is an artist that despite all of that vocal power understands that sometimes a whisper can be louder than a shout. At the heart of everything though is the music and the words, and the song’s tonight are not throw away pop lyrics, these are carefully constructed songs with powerful lyrics that have at times given people hope and strength when they needed it most. I believe that there is magic in this world and we call it names like “music” and “words”. Words have enormous power – they can have enormous healing properties or enormously destructive consequences, and anyone that was lucky enough to catch Horse’s dramatic performance in “Careful” will know that this is someone who understands perhaps more than many others the true power of words.
There is a humility to Horse as a person that I always find as defining of her as her music, and taking time out in this show to credit long-time songwriting partner Angela McAlinden for her part in the music was a typical example of this. Also, Horse is currently actively involved as an ambassador with music therapy charity Nordorff Robbins Scotland. You can get more information on their work from their website at
Supporting Horse tonight, local Edinburgh singer/songwriter Kat Healy (see https://www.kathealymusic.com/ for more information). Although Kat Healy is very much at the beginning of her musical career, it is easy to see in some of the lyrics so far why Horse chose Kat Healy to be supporting her as songs like the new single “Perfect” show that there is much more to come from this singer/songwriter in the future. Also interesting to note how “Perfect” is an obvious musical and lyrical advancement on some of the earlier songs from the set. Kat Healy is learning her craft, and learning it fast.
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