- 23 Nov 21
In the intimate setting of The Workman's Club, Japanese folk singer Ichiko Aoba transports the audience to a far away dreamscape.
Capturing the audience with her breathy vocals and gentle guitar playing, Ichiko Aoba has The Workman's Club enraptured during the final performance of her European tour.
Opening up the night was the ethereal sound of ambient artist Gareth Quinn Redmond. The composer, who has collaborated extensively with David Keenan, took the stage of The Workman's Club - which isn't much taller than a step - and threw himself into the music.
There was little showmanship in the performance, as Gareth was too busy meddling with the keyboards and MIDI pads, but there didn't need to be. If anything, the subdued performance gave a greater feeling of intimacy, as if the audience was getting a look at what happens behind closed curtains.
With his second track, Gareth introduced us to the Tascam, a home studio cassette recorder. The analogue mixing deck looked more like a 1960s NASA supercomputer than an instrument. That is in no small part because it wasn't intended to be used as an instrument, which did not deter the composer. Hunched over the retro-looking piece of machinery, twirling the various levers, he resembled more of a scientist tinkering away at an invention than an acclaimed artist.
Following an ethereal four-song set, the unique Irish composer left the stage. The various keyboards and gizmos were removed from the stage, a chair and an acoustic guitar replacing them instead. Ichiko Aoba took the stage unassumingly, giving a quick bow and then asking the audience to sit down with a simple hand movement.
While most of her international fame has come recently with the release of her seventh studio album Windswept Adan - which marks her first record to get a proper international release next month; the Japanese artist has been putting out quality songs for more than a decade.
The opener 'Kokoro No Sekai' (roughly translating to 'The Heart of the World') for her set was drawn from her back catalogue, going way back to her 2010 debut album Kamisori Otome. The gentle tune softly sang with smooth vocals, lulled the audience into an enamoured silence.
With her next track, the singer jumped right back to her newest material, with a bone-chilling performance of 'Porcelain'. It was at this point that the first signs of back pain started showing. This reviewer is not a particularly limber person, and judging by the shuffling and re-adjusting of other audience members, I wasn't alone. It is a testament to just how captivating a live act Ichiko is that not a handful of people left the uncomfortable wooden flooring through the duration of her set.
"Windswept Adan is an island inside your heart," the singer tells the audience. The singer spoke little English to the crowd but more than made up with it with an unexpected physical comedy bit, turning her hands into a little creature that crept up the microphone stand.
Ichiko's live rendition of 'Dawn in Adan' stands out as one of the most captivating offerings of the night. Gently picking her guitar in a beautiful rhythm, the singer slows the song down from the original tempo adding even more depth to the folk ballad.
After a brief interval - and a welcome chance to stretch my legs - the singer briefly sat back down on the chair, started strumming her guitar, then suddenly stopped. As if struck by a sudden revelation, Ichiko stood up, unplugged her guitar and took a seat at the edge of the stage. Surrounded by the audience, the singer finished off her set with a dauntingly beautiful performance of her 2020 single 'boutique'.
Listen to Windswept Adan below: