Review by David Waterfield, photos by Rob Stanley
Luna Rossa is the “little sister” project of Jonathan Edwards and Anne-Marie Helder of Panic Room. Tonight’s concert is the last of three select dates in support of their sophomore album Secrets & Lies which sees the duo ably assisted by Andy Coughlan (double bass) and Sarah Dean (harp).
The show is an all seated affair with candles adorning the Robin, creating a warm, intimate ambiance and in this environment the music of Sarah Dean works wonderfully. She performed solo to her own accompaniment on the harp and it was a lovely experience just to let the beautiful, gentle music wrap around you. I found it genuinely therapeutic and I bought a couple of her CDs from the merchandise stall after her set.
Sea Of Green are just starting out on their musical journey, having played their first gig as a full band just two months ago. Tonight they are a duo of Martin Day on acoustic guitar and vocals and Anne Marie’s brother Robert Helder on electric guitar. Their set consisted of all original material and although they seemed a little tentative at times it will hopefully build their confidence as their mix of styles and reverb drenched psychedelic soundscapes is not without charm.
Far from being simply an acoustic version of Panic Room, Jonathan Edwards and Ann-Marie Helder have allowed their sister project to develop her own distinctive personality. Both Luna Rossa albums are varied and beguiling collections of well-crafted songs – delicate and introspective in places, playful and uplifting in others – and infused with the duo’s unique flair for melody. The evening’s one hour forty five minute set showcases much of their strongest material, whilst the addition of double bass and harp adds a further richness and depth to the sound.
They open with the largely instrumental ‘Aurora’ before following with ‘The Dark Room’; a beautiful, sad, poignant song underpinned by Edwards’ rolling piano refrain. By contrast ‘Mad About You’ is a light-hearted look at love and attraction seen from both sides of the gender divide. In a live setting it has even more of a Pentangle-esque vibe and some humorous moments too as Jonathan Edwards occasionally breaks into the chords to Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke On The Water’, making Anne-Marie laugh.
Anne Marie joked that people often cited ‘The Book Of Love’ as Luna Rossa’s best song, forcing them to admit that it wasn’t one that they had actually written! What the duo can absolutely take credit for however is a quite magnificent arrangement of Stephin Merritt’s care worn song about love songs, bringing out the beauty of the melody and transforming it into something tender and uplifting. Their song or not, it was just sublime. French language song ‘La Clef’ with its concluding phrase ‘L’amour est la clef’ (love is the key) took on an added poignancy in the aftermath of the recent terrible events in Paris and it’s followed by a fine rendition of Todd Rundgren’s ‘Tiny Demons’.
In such an intimate setting you appreciate anew what an extraordinary voice Anne-Marie Helder has; melodic and beautiful throughout and by turns soaring and powerful (‘Fight Or Flight’), haunting and dramatic (‘Gasp’) or tender and emotional during set closer ‘No Chords Left’ during which you could have heard a pin drop.
A three song encore opens with the excellent ‘Secrets & Lies’ and concludes with ‘Happy Little Song’ – an unusual, almost childlike tune which I guarantee WILL stay in your head whether you want it to or not! It’s pretty much the screen saver for my mind at the moment!
I’d been looking forward to seeing Luna Rossa for several months and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a gentle, elegant and richly rewarding start to the new year.
2. The Dark Room
4. Heart On My Sleeve
5. Mad About You
6. The Black Dog
7. The Book Of Love
8. Fight Or Flight
9. Rise Up
10. La Clef
11. Tiny Demons
12. Scream At The Sky
13. I’ve Been Wrong Before
14. Fly Away
16. No Chords Left
17. Secrets And Lies
18. The Harmony
19. Happy Little Song