The most striking thing about entering La Belle Angele is silence. Venue staff stretch towards you as much as possible across the bartop, lest they disturb anyone nearby. This comes as Kris Drever commands incredible focus from the audience. Rows of chairs are filled all the way from the stage to the bar at the back of the venue. The event is at capacity, a true indication of how successful Drever has been as a solo artist in his own right. He is best known as the vocalist for the award-winning and innovative folk group Lau. However, the performance at La Belle Angele reminds us just how talented and versatile he is.
His songs and stories touch on his experiences in his home of Orkney as well as Scotland as a whole. He is an artist who truly exemplifies what live folk music is all about. A hauntingly beautiful voice, accompanying lyrics detailing people’s lives. The laughter, the loss, the sheer diversity of their everyday experiences. It does not matter if these stories are real as regardless, they represent the importance of individuals; their hopes, their fears, their aspirations and most crucially how they relate to and affect one another. Drever is an example of how folk music offers a fresh perspective on these issues and provides us with lessons regarding our own lives.
Drever is a softly-spoken man and yet he talks extensively between his songs. His tone remains monotone as he describes the inspiration behind his music. It is surprising therefore to see just how much stage presence he has. Perhaps not in a manner similar to others, yet the audience remains transfixed. He instils temporary fascination with the subjects he discusses. Onlookers laugh when they should, applaud at the correct moments and do not even let out a murmur when Drever does not want them to. The event goes exactly how he intends it to, without so much as a minor hiccup. It seems a perfectly rehearsed procession, we are all obediently captivated. Even when the audience expresses its approval by demanding an encore it cannot have been a shock to Drever to hear this praise after such a strong set. Despite finishing the main part of his set with his most well-known song ‘I Didn’t Try Hard Enough,’ he walks back on stage mere moments later to perform two more beautiful renditions.
Even though the audience demographic is mostly older, there are a few younger faces also present. They are just as focused, just as attentive, just as won over by his talent, a promising sign for the future of British folk music. Drever is part of a generation who can protect its traditions while allowing it to adapt to the tastes of new listeners, engaging in questions related to increasing homogenisation and globalisation, whilst taking comfort in the small details of everyday life. He taps into folk music’s ability to express feelings that mere words are unable to describe.
Image: Nick Bramhall via Wikimedia Commons