Eliza Carthy and her new “Wayward Band” lineup have been tipped as a "must see" and ever since the launch of her latest album, Big Machine, earlier this year she has been touring and playing quite extensively. Tonight in Nottingham's Rescue Rooms she graced us with her A-Class performance.
Support act, Duotone , came on with no introduction and simply started looping cello patterns; his entrance was so subdued that most of the audience did not seem to realise that this was the support act until he had almost reached the end of the first song. He pulled off the “mysterious man in black” trope well between songs though, with good musicianship and an impressive command of technology backing up the rest of the performance, especially as he weaved between guitar, cello, and percussion even in the same song.
After a quick interval, Eliza and her Wayward band  took to the stage with “Devil in the Woman”, a surprising introduction, but one that worked. Carthy’s confident stage presence was showcased immaculately right from the off, and for a primarily folk ensemble The Wayward Band definitely managed to rock the venue right from the start. Their huge eclectic sound carried on throughout “The Fitter’s Song” and a tune set, but as they reached “Great Grey Back” the lack of audience interaction was noticeable. However, the band were incredibly entertaining to watch; especially as Sam Sweeney and Lucy Farrell decided to have a swordfight with their violin bows in between playing – with Saul Rose pretending to be killed by the pair.
Finally, Carthy decided to speak to the audience in order to introduce “Epitaph”, she had the whole audience laughing along to her jokes as part of this. After the madness of “Epitaph”, “Hug You Like a Mountain” provided a nice respite before a song not from the album that was simply introduced as “a happy one”. This demonstrated a remarkable manner of weaving through the album without playing the songs in order – something that made the show nicely unpredictable to those who know the album well. The extended introduction to “The Sea” created a nice eerie atmosphere before the band delved into the maelstrom that completes the song; Sam Sweeney noticeably lost his in-ear monitor whilst playing, but managed to carry on without breaking time, a testament to the band’s musical ability with some of the folk scene’s foremost musicians.
A surprise was how well the audience took the introduction to “You Know Me”; it still seems that the refugee crisis of 2015 and related events since are too divisive to talk about too much publicly; but Carthy, confident as ever, won the crowd over and even managed to pull off the rap verse by herself (it is handed over to a guest rapper on the album). Ending the show was another two familiar tune sets not taken from the album; it did strike as odd that “Mrs Dyer the Baby Farmer” was the only song from the album not played, but at least by the end, members of the crowd had finally started dancing to warm the room up slightly.
Overall, the show was everything you could hope for: a fantastic performance from some of the finest musicians on the folk scene, showcasing one of the best albums to have been released from any artist of any genre in the last year. With such an unapologetically loud and boisterous live show, the question may still be asked: do the songs sound just as good live as they do on the album? No, they sound even better.