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Emily Maguire and Christian Dunham

Venue: The Cluny 2
Town: Newcastle
Date: 24/06/17

This was Emily Maguire's fourth visit to The Cluny 2, one of their self admitted favourite venues in which to play. After some health issues caused a long break in Emily's touring schedule, the beaming smile on her face as she walked on stage, could leave no doubt as to how elated she was to be back. As always, she was accompanied by her husband; outstanding bass player, Christian Dunham, who, from start to finish, both perfectly complemented and added emotion to every word Emily delivered with her beautiful vocals. To see the confidence Which Emily now exudes on stage, is an absolute joy. Without a shadow of a doubt, this is the best sh has ever sounded.

Telling us stories about the home she shared with Christian in Australia, how she ended up cancelling a flight back to tour with Don MacLean, her time recently playing gigs in mental hospitals (which she clearly loves,) and her own experiences with BiPolar disorder, even being sectioned and hospitalised in London, she moved the audience to tears and laughter, as she effortlessly held them in the palm of her hand. I won't divulge her stories, she tells them far better than I ever could. She even read sections from her two published books about her own experiences with mental health. It struck me that even watching her read those excerpts, whilst smiling and laughing, could alone remove a big part of the stigma which surrounds the condition. I have enormous respect for her decision to be so open and honest and I have no doubt she is simultaneously making a difference to and educating, many.

Of course, they are on the road to promote Emily's new release, A Bit of Blue and it was wonderful to experience many of the new songs performed live. Lyrically, I feel, they are some of her strongest offerings to date, evidenced in such beautiful songs as Stone and Sky, inspired by her love of cemeteries, Albatross, For Free; her song for the current world, Memory, the title track, A Bit of Blue and the stunning new acoustic version of I'd Rather Be.

We also got to hear several old favourites, Old Valentine, Beautiful, Keep Walking, Lighthouse Man, Over The Waterfall, These songs, in many cases are very personal, yet they are also very relatable, with or without knowledge of her own story. That, to me, is one of Emily's greatest gifts. At the conclusion of each song, an enormous smile spread across her face, which lit up the room; it really was a night filled with joy.

There was much laughter, too, not least when Emily's laptop failed to co operate with the piano, not once, but twice (ironically during Its Alright) Whilst she attempted, successfully, in the end, to coerce it, Christian went off on assorted rambles which left both us and Emily in tears of laughter. You really do get a sense of them as people from the stage and this is never more evident than when they take time out to chat afterwards, taking a few minutes which are special for each individual.

Ending the night with Start Over Again, the story of her life in three and half minutes, Emily promised us she would return next year. It's Alright, we'll be waiting!

Helen Mitchell

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