Beki Hemingway Live in Derryvolgie, Belfast, 29.10.2002
Larry Norman - Live in Belfast, 23.02.2000

Sarah Masen - Live At The Exodus Nightbase, 1997

Maybe it was just the circumstances but the impact of Sarah Masen's first few seconds on stage blew me away. The circumstances were that this beautiful angel (Sarah's good looks are the tiniest part of this her beauty) was quietly talking to me about family and friends. It was all very ordinary and then suddenly she is fronting a black raging backing band with the most charisma that I have seen since Maria McKee dramatically interpretting the wacky Victoria Williams' song Love. The transformation literally took me by stunning surprise. Add an electric guitar slung around her waste for her best know tune All Fall Down in the second number and I was watching this angel open her wings and fly. You can tell that I was impressed. I was impressed how impressed I was. Yes, I've been playing her, Charlie Peacock produced debut album, for over a year and I know how good it is but even that did not prepare me for the magic that this girl conjures.

Can I warn you that at this point of her life, she is only 21, that Sarah is wrestling with her music career and talks enthusiastically about becoming a librarian. What?!!! Anyway, the fact that she is studying literature and Library Science is evident in the poetic wonder of her art. This is not your three minute pop song from some attractively packaged commodity. This girl is an artist in the truest sense of the word and she sings songs that weep and laugh and confess and rejoice. There are no cliched choruses or sermonettes. And her references to poets throughout and her cover of Veronica by Elvis Costello indicate the territory.

Perhaps it wasn't Exodus territory. There seemed very much two audiences. There was the usual mid teens chatterlings trying to find their puppy love, sadly much more important than the literary wonderment of an American, and then there was this much older, first time Nightbasers, who were there to be enthralled. Sarah in her acoustic set did eventually command a silence while she sang a delicately fragile piece of tenderness called Mercy - "kissing/mouth wide open/sucking us in... Mercy". Stunning. Two of her other solo songs and new were particular highlights, Everybody with it's aching and haunting refrain "Cool is never cool enough" and Building Delight about her home town Detroit "I don't know much about love/But I think it starts with belief".

The band songs were cooking and the album favourites were there, the aforementioned John Donne inspired All Fall Down, Downtown, Flames Of Truth and the even better than those Break Hard The Wishbone. The band were superb and led to an incredible finish to any gig where the star finished up in the crowd cheering her band. It did say something about the band but it said so much about the non pop star attitude of Sarah Masen. A beautiful angel and let us hope that she leaves the Library a few weeks a year to comfort and disturb us with her art.


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