Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
18th March 2017
Reviewed by Rob Harrison
So tonight finds me in the Epstein Theatre for a very strange evening with Elfin Bow.
Elfin is here to launch her new album called, funnily enough, Elfin Bow.
It was put together by a crowdfunding campaign and produced at Hound Dog Studios, based in Liverpool.
It was released in early March and tonight Elfin, not one to do things by halves, plays the Epstein to promote it.
The show starts with a storyteller who tells a traditional welsh folktale called “The leaves that hung but never grew”. The story is told by Alice Fernbank who, for the purposes of the story, is disguised as Edith Grimshaw (are you with me so far?) but the storytelling is great and Alice or Edith, take your pick, keeps the audience enthralled throughout, and so, as you can gather so far, this is not just an ordinary gig.
Next up is a harp and guitar duo Bryony and Johnny. At this point we have huge clocks and snowflakes dangling from the ceiling, with dry ice cutting through the lights, which project onto the stage, giving a visual fix to the ethereal happenings in the performance.
Bryony and Johnny perform of psych folk-like tunes and sea shanties, Captain Kidd being a really good number. The harp playing is amazing, and Bryony’s ethereal vocals float through the Epstein (trippy man). The sound is great too, well mixed and not too loud (ok, it’s official, the Epstein theatre is great).
Act 2 sees Elfin take a Bow or Bow (ha, couldn’t resist that).
So here we are as Elfin takes centre stage, and is dressed like a psychedelic pixie in very colorful garb, making the old sixties Batman series look positively drab as she kicks the set off with a folky ambient number.
She is backed by two vocalists, one of whom is her sister. The vocals are great, especially, when they sing together, and you can hear the beautiful harmonies blend.
When the band play they tend to get a bit drowned out but still that’s not to take away from the gorgeous sound made by them. it certainly seems like there are complex arrangements at play here in the world of Elfin.
It’s like an aural landscape, and listening to it in one sitting, so to speak, is a bit much to take in.
I imagine if I was listening to it at home it would be like folk quadraphonic as the various different sounds emerge through the speakers.
The band backing her are all quite proficient and, continually like Elfin, swop instruments. Tom Kitching, the fiddle player, only plays the xylophone once and stays in fiddle duties for most of the set. Tom, it must be said, adds a lot to the sound, giving extra texture to the guitar finger picking of Elfin
Elfin seeks to blur the boundaries between various art forms, as we see tonight, with storytellers and alt folk group, combined with stage sets and artistic lighting effects. She also paints, as well as composing music, and collaborates with video artists.
Elfin is very influenced by the artist Allan Kaprow and the happening movement in the sixties They too sought to blur the lines between different art forms, so then perhaps we could describe tonight as a mini happening.
She plays all of the new album and finishes with an encore. By this time the audience are on their feet, applauding wildly, and she deserves to take a bow (there we go again), as Elfin has taken the folk genre and spun it into the 21st century, methinks.