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The Portraits + Kadia

Venue: The Harrison
Town: London
Date: 14/5/16

I'm fortunate to live in an area where I can get to plenty of gigs fairly easily. I often describe them as wonderful, brilliant, fantastic - and they are. However, last night I went to a gig that can only be described as uplifting. It restored my faith in how quietly amazing people can be. The bands were Kadia and The Portraits who play music we can relate to; songs about people.

This was my first chance to see Bournemouth based Kadia - Chris Bailey (Guitar/Vocal), Lee Cuff (Cello/Vocal) and David Hoyland (Percussion/Mandolin/Vocal) who are a folk based outfit and I was impressed. The music may be traditional, but it's certainly not fossilised. They played songs from their very good debut album "East of Alexandria". The Waterboys inspired arrangement of Raggle Taggle Gypsy bounced along, we discovered the Origin of Fire and learnt the story of Mary Read, female pirate extraordinaire. They ended the set with a mash-up of around 20 songs, some familiar, other not, played on just four chords. It worked very well! The three are obviously friends and this comes across in the ease they work with each other.

The inspiration for the evening was The Portraits, Jeremy Millington (piano, voice) and Lorraine Millington (guitar, voice), to raise awareness, and money, for the Phuang Daw Oo school in Myanmar (Burma) which they have been supporting now for many years.

I first saw The Portraits when they organised a show in a village hall not far from me, this time recruiting donors for the bone marrow register. This was also the driver for their single The Rest of Time. It's a real honour to know such selfless, beautiful people who are always looking for ways to help those not as fortunate as us. Music can be such a force for good and we're lucky to be able to share it.

Every Portraits gig I've been to feels like a family gathering and this evening was no different. . The Harrison is not a large venue and this intimate gig for maybe 50 people had the feel of a house concert. The set opened with the beautiful Moon Song, inspired by Lorraine seeing the moon reflecting in the eyes of their new-born son. That song for me, more than any other, sums up their music. It's the small detail and relating songs to a very personal level.

We also heard Fairy Lights, a song Jeremy thought of when seeing lights from an aeroplane at night flying whilst over Africa. Were they towns, villages or maybe fires warming people who had been displaced from their homes? The image of a comfortable, well-off traveller passing overhead stays in the mind.

This is not maudlin music, though. Jeremy's piano, Lorraine's guitar and their well matched harmonies drive alt-folk, up tempo music that encourages the audience to join in. This is nowhere more apparent than on the well received Rest of Time, particularly as many of the audience had been part of the 2,000 voices forming the backing band on the single.

Everyone, musicians and audience, stayed to chat afterwards and I'm sure many people left feeling, as I did, that they had been to something more than a great evening out.

There is a reciprocal gig on Sunday 22nd May in Bournemouth at The Trouville Hotel. Go along if you get the chance.

Tony Birch words and pictures

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