Eb & Sparrow's last tour 6 October 2018, Common Room, Hastings By Megan Seawright
‘Bye Bye Baby’ said it all Saturday night at the Common Room. Alt-country ensemble Eb & Sparrow set to the stage with their resoundingly smooth and creamy tunes that lingered long through lyrics and evening to the absolute pleasure of the audience. Many a time, these musicians rode the high lines of tone giving away their code, a natural cohesive awareness between each other. Like the knowing just when to breathe, to pitch timbre and tempo, and tipping every sound into one. The lap-steel was a gentle unavoidable siren, the drums holding solid, the base a fret dance and trumpet, all along the guitars rolling it through like a changeable river way. The circular edge of Ebony Lamb’s spacious voice was a largo reaching towards us with a blues’ rise and fall and a cool slip of country, as if to pitch intimacy with a ‘well…how ‘bout that’ to the crowd. Nothing was a disappointment.
In between, a piece of spoken word from travelling poet David Merritt and composer/viola musician Justine Francis on the road from Taranaki. The mechanical grind and a twist of skin drawing blood from old oilings, metal bendings and engine love, were spoken to a plucked and driven cadence, and read from a hand-written book. The standing audience was attentive; the brief reading a complement to the alt-country vibe.
Further along several renditions of Eb’s longstanding musical influences were claimed, culminating in Etta James’ ‘I’d rather be blind than to see’, which gathered palpable emotion. When I turned to my friend both of us were on the cusp of tears, which spilled in the moment Eb exited the stage, sentence incomplete, having left us before we could walk away from her. It could have all finished there… ‘bye bye baby’ saturated in that crescendo of melancholia. Anyhow, reminiscence was set aside and the encore brought a dawn, as Eb & Sparrow finished the gig with their familiar salutary get-ups.
When time’s up, it’s up. The people were there: family members and close friends visiting Hastings just to see this penultimate show. Along the way we all wondered ‘why?’ There were perhaps small snippets of clue, like a fanning of tired jokes – perhaps they’re all exhausted with each other. Eight years of creating and performing through heavy schedules exacts its own taxes. This night though, was a sublime performance. And I hope they never forget what they created together then offered up to willing audiences who clearly loved them.
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