It might have been a Sunday night but because it was also St Patrick’s Day, you bet the streets of Liverpool were awash with green, white and orange clad revellers, some of whom were actually Irish (!) as given away by their shirts. Numerous GAA club shirts were in evidence, but they were here not to see an American country singer as I was, but to see infamous folk singer Damien Quinn, who’d come over to play a gig in a nearby Irish bar. I made my way through the sea of green (hey it’s Liverpool, obligatory Beatles pun!) to Leaf where Sarah Darling was performing on this night. I first encountered her a year ago, across town at Studio 2; persuaded to go along as a fellow gig-going friend of mine had travelled all the way from Derbyshire to see her I went mainly so he wouldn’t be a ‘billy no-mates’. Having surprised myself (a self-confessed headbanger) by enjoying the set I decided to come again, seeing as she had been so nice as to return to Liverpool!
Leaf is a tea room by day, but is a bar by night; set on two levels it was on the upper floor where this show was to take place. I’d only been once before and that was to see American singer-songwriter Arielle recently, who was performing on the lower level on a small stage, before a clientele who weren’t necessarily there for her. This show was however ticketed and on this floor, there was a proper stage for the acts with a big floor space for those who chose to stand. There were two support acts, both solo singers who played acoustic guitar and the first of these was Laura Oakes. It soon became clear that she was a local; delighted at playing a gig in her home city she gave a short and enjoyable set of country-flavoured songs, the highlight of which was ‘Glitter’. A critique of the fake personas put on by users of social media, there was a nice touch of humour in this number.
Opener Laura Oakes at Leaf Liverpool
Liv Austen at Leaf
Next up was Liv Austen, whose accent fooled me into thinking she was an English girl too, albeit from the Home Counties. She’s actually Norwegian, which I probably should have guessed by looking at her (a slim blonde figure) who has lived in the UK for several years. Delivering another set of songs performed solo and acoustic, she also demonstrated a nice line in humour for her song ‘Don’t Regret A Single One’. The song is about her list of exes, which she said was a lie – admitting to regretting more than one! Both these performers got a good reception from the attendees, many of whom elected to sit at the tables dotted around the floor rather than come to the front by the stage.
Sarah Darling did have a full band with her of drummer, guitarist, bassist and keyboard player, and she came on a little after 9pm. Clad in a green dress to mark the occasion, she played a set featuring several new songs alongside some I knew from last year. Two songs were performed solo and acoustic (‘Montmartre’ and ‘Wasted’). Although categorised as country, her music is a bit more diverse than that; opener ‘Blue Sky’ for instance could have fitted into Fleetwood Mac’s mid-70s output comfortably. A stand out for me was new song ‘Enjoy The Ride’ which features a funky bass line through it, and had the devotees at the front (plus your correspondent) clapping along enthusiastically!
Liv Austen duetted with Sarah Darling
Sarah Darling at Leaf Liverpool
Sarah Darling in Liverpool
Towards the end of the set she brought Liv Austen back on stage to duet on ‘Home To Me’. Another catchy pop-country number, it was one where her guitarist finally got to cut loose a little with some lead soloing. This was a very enjoyable evening of music, rather more chilled out than I’m accustomed to, sure but a good singer is a good singer, and we had three of those on this night. In the end I walked out of there with CDs from both Laura and Liv, plus a T-shirt from Sarah which I promised her I’d wear at the upcoming Cellar Darling gig (I had that band’s T-shirt on for this gig, my little joke since I was probably the only Metalhead present on the night!)
Sarah Darling’s next album is due for release in the summer, and I’ll be looking out for that and any future dates in this country.
Laura Oakes Facebook page
Liv Austen Facebook page
Sarah Darling Facebook page
4 – Deserving