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Helen Shanahan is one of those artists who is best experienced in an intimate space. Her acoustic ballads are laced with memories of sadness and introspection, and on a chilly winter night a place like The Newsagency is the perfect setting to be enveloped by her stories. With walls adorned with gig posters and kindergarten chairs lined up in front of the tiny stage, the space provides the best setting for an evening of some sweet, folk inspired tunes.
With the release of her EP Finding Gold earning plenty of love, a chilly winter evening was made warm after witnessing Helen Shanahan live at The Newsagency.
First on the bill is Georgia Mooney who gets the night off to a good start despite fighting off a cold. As she approached the stage there was a trace of awkwardness to her presence, the cold she was dealing with was clearly on her mind. But the moment those first mandolin chords were plucked and she began to sing that air of uneasiness evaporated. Her music is punctuated with blatant honesty, a nice contrast to the her floaty vocals and mandolin plucking. Georgia was always up for the odd anecdote, whether is was about friends’ boyfriends she didn’t like or that she plays with a Backstreet Boys pick signed by Nick Carter, having toured with the boy band with All Our Exes Live in Texas recently.
Every now and then she would cough or splutter between songs, but by this point it was no longer awkward and just a funny part of her show. One may liken her stage presence Regina Spektor in her gracious yet off the cuff mannerisms. Mooney was prone to making the odd mistake but as any good live artists does she took it in her stride, at one point delivering an “Oh shit balls“.
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The star of the evening took to the stage armed with her acoustic guitar and backing vocalist/ fiancé Matt Allen. Despite being the third stop on her Finding Gold tour Helen was nervous with excitement. A little odd at first, but it was endearing. However that nervousness melted away the second she started playing. Her clear vocals pierced the cold night air. The absence of a backing band gave Helen’s voice room to breathe, commanding the attention of everyone seated in those kindergarten seats. Dead Weight was a stand out for the evening, Helen mesmerising with her tale of loneliness and seeking that light at the end of the tunnel with strong affirmation.
It was hard to believe that this was the same woman who seemed too shy to stand before her small yet devoted fans gathered at The Newsagency. Through her music she was a completely different person, confidant and graceful with not a single eye staring elsewhere. The tender Driftwood made good use of Allen, his harmonies totally nailing the vibe of the song. A little husky and sitting on a higher register than Helen’s his BVs were the perfect compliment to her voice, adding a depth to the number. Meanwhile Finding Gold proved to be another highlight. Helen’s subtle changes in the tone of her vocals between songs gave each a distinct character. Finding Gold remains hopeful whilst Love Lost has a more assertive, sure feel.
Her nervous excitement gave way to some cute banter and allowed for an informal atmosphere. We may as well have been in a lounge room, that’s how at home everyone felt. With plenty of delicate folk tinged acoustic pop to go around, this was a pretty good way to spend a chilly Marrickville evening. If you love Helen’s Finding Gold EP you’re bound to fall for her live show, and if she happens to be playing a small venue like The Newsagency it’ll be all for the better.
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