For many Red Sky July fans, myself included, the festive season officially begins with the trio’s now annual Christmas Show at London’s Green Note with tickets always selling out within hours of going on sale!
This year was no exception, Time Out labelling the gig as the “ hottest ticket in town” , and it was great to see many familiar faces packing this cosy listening room…..the band’s Shelly Poole actually commented during the set how lovely it was that she now knows so many of us by name! In addition some very special people indeed were in the audience this year, three of the dedicated nursing staff who had helped in Ally’s rehabilitation after the band’s lead guitarist ( Shelly’s husband ) suffered a brain aneurysm a few years ago which he was lucky to survive, let alone be able to return to making music again. And a further personal touch was the mince pies and festive cookies, largely handmade by the trio’s Charity Hair , which were waiting for us on the tables on arrival.
A short opening set of gentle, well written folk songs by two of the five-piece, Glastonbury based Safehaus was well received, and after a short break Shelly, Charity and Ally took to the tiny corner stage. Appropriately it was Christmas classics that started and ended their set, opening with Winter Wonderland which they admitted to having never played live before and needing to wing it a bit, but it sounded beautiful with the ladies fabulous trademark harmonies as impressive as always, and finishing the evening with their stunning versions of Peace on Earth/Little DrummerBoy and White Christmas. Apart from one cover, “ Take Me Home, Country Roads “ which precipitated an Olivia Newton John love-fest ( Ally’s slide guitar playing on this one was a joy! ) and a brand new original ( more of that later!) the rest of the set consisted of songs from their back catalogue. Naturally all were familiar to the majority of the audience and there was a lot of singing along, possibly alcohol fuelled but always totally in tune of course, on favourites such as “Longest Time”, “Already Gone” and “Taking Myself Back”
Naturally their Christmas single from last year, “Save Christmas Day for Me” , was also included, a gorgeous ballad about how hectic modern day life often keeps loved ones apart for the majority of the year but hoping that they can at least spend this one special day together. Shelly joked that it was meant to be a happy song (not something the threesome are renown for if you are at all au fait with their writing!) but added that unsurprisingly it ended up sounding melancholy….. make your own mind up!
The songs were interspersed with a lot of fun banter as usual courtesy of Shelly and Charity, with Ally saving his energy for some stunning guitar playing such as his solo at the end their romantic ballad “ Sway” and he even stole his wife’s mandolin for one song. Shelly alternated between mandolin and an array of percussion instruments , and as well as providing rhythm guitar accompaniment Charity plays a mean fiddle which sounded appropriately haunting on their dark, atmospheric song “ Renegade” inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s western novel “Blood Meridian” (not a book for the faint hearted!).
Towards the end of the set Shelly thanked us all for spending our hard earned money coming to the show, and apologised that they hadn’t played many gigs this year explaining that they had been busy in the studio. Which can mean only one thing…..yes, a new Red Sky July album due for release next Spring, along with tour dates to follow! Of course we’ll keep you up to speed on any more news in this regard as soon as we hear anything.
Meanwhile, they gave us a sneak preview of their brand new Christmas single, the reflective “ Him and Christmas” at the Green Note ahead of its release, the studio version featuring 10cc’s Graham Goldman on bass
It’s available to stream/download with links (and more information about the band) here on their website http://redskyjuly.com
Happily it seems that this show is one festive tradition that is set to continue, with plans afoot for the trio to play two nights at this venue next December both with different setlists. And yes, all being well I will be among the familiar faces joining them to kick start Christmas 2018 the way I have for the past five years!
Review written by Lesley Hastings