23rd November | Lord Mayor’s Chapel

Photo: Patti Aberhart

St Mark’s, or the Lord Mayor’s Chapel, has stood in the centre of Bristol for 800 years. A lifetime spent in this city, and as I approached the doors I realised I had never set foot in this place. If you haven’t visited the chapel, I recommend it. Churches are not my natural haunts but I was struck by the beauty of the architecture and quite frankly, its size.

It was here that Fenne Lily closed her maiden headline tour. Originally from Dorset, she now resides in Bristol and we are more than happy to claim her as one of our own. And it is always a welcome site to see a local artist triumphantly return home.

As people congregated (for lack of a better word) in groups before the show started the atmosphere had the feel of a Sunday congregation. It was apparent that several of Fenne’s friends and family were in attendance, as were those of the supporting acts Nugget and Jamie Cruickshank, giving the sense that this was concert but also a milestone of sorts.

Because of this I am obliged to speak about both Nugget and Jamie Cruickshank, as they were not so much as support acts but part of the story. Firstly, the former, I was astounded to learn that the performance was her first. With an introverted style of songwriting, ‘Arcade’ in particular, is a thing of beauty.

Jamie Cruickshank by comparison, provided a performance of great variety, switching from guitar to banjo to ukulele with an eclectic range of songs tied together expertly. Cumulating in the powerful ‘New Shoes’, with broke into a distorted crescendo that was quite unexpected, and thoroughly effective.

Now, time to talk about Fenne Lily. I always felt that a chapel would prove to be a fitting place for her to perform, with a confessional style of songwriting (“Shameless Folk”, she called a drunken ode to her brother, written two days previously). Even her only cover, ‘81’ by Joanna Newsom (I’ve heard plenty of versions and this is by distance one of the best), was appropriate in its biblical themes.

I’m not sure what the effect of being in her hometown, surrounded by her friends and family had on her demeanour, but I was struck by how relaxed between songs, a stark contrast to the softly singing, tentative nature of her music. Warm, self-depreciating and genuinely funny, she did a great job of making us strangers feel welcome when it would have been all too easy for us to feel isolated.

The set, and indeed the evening cumulated in ‘Top to Toe’ a song that I have become particularly fond of over the last few weeks, although Fenne Lily did reveal that it has drawn a wide range of interpretation not all of which are accurate. As such I won’t embarrass myself by adding my two cents here, but it is a song of unflinching delicacies and embodies the strengths of her work.

As the lights came up and Nugget, Jamie Cruickshank and Fenne Lily all mingled with the crowd, the pride that of their families and friends was plain to see. I left the Lord Mayor’s Chapel, feeling blessed that I witnessed a very special evening.

Check out the live video for ‘Top to Toe’ below.