Live Review: Smoke Fairies – Lafayette, King’s Cross 15.02.2022

Don Blandford

“So great leaving the house, isn’t it?” declares Katherine Blamire, clearly excited that her and fellow Smoke Fairies friend Jessica Davies are finally back touring.

Being back on the road and spending time away from home isn’t without its dangers though. Blamire reveals how she recently reacquainted herself with her cat – “I came back on a day off from touring, I went to have a big hug with my cat and he just swiped me in the face….and then I got into a another fight with another cat and I got a massive hand – true story. On the tour I had a giant hand and a limp, a couple of weeks ago…”.

So tonight’s performance is brought to King’s Cross courtesy of the “A&E in Woolwich hospital”, apparently!

As a metaphor, the tale of fickle felines fits the mood perfectly,  Smoke Fairies deliciously dark folk appears warm and embracing but fairy tales always have a sinister side.

Katherine and Jessica are joined at this London headline show by John J. Presley on bass and drummer Sean Fallowfield. They lead the Lafayette on a trail through an undergrowth of blues tinged folk – these are brooding tunes, without even a trail of breadcrumbs to ease the sense of foreboding.

This Smoke Fairies foray begins with the languorous Super Tremolo as Blamire sings that she is powerless to change direction “and now it’s taking over me, and the world is tearing at the seams” – fate is sealed and she is “never coming back again”. It’s the final track on their latest album Darkness Brings The Wonders Home and there’s plenty more to come. Blamire and Davies exchange sweet harmonies to a heavy blues-rock vibe on Don’t You To Want To Spiral Out Of Control? before Coffee Shop Blues namechecks the Smoke Fairies past residency in New Orleans, delivering a thoughtful, autobiographical vignette.

Pausing for breath on the gorgeous slow rocking anthem Sunshine, Katherine urges “show me your love is real”. The cosmic love song Eclipse Them All is another gentle glade emerging through the shadows. Katherine does what all good, gracious artists do and acknowledges the audience and expresses relief people have come back to the band after the enforced distance these past couple of years. They’re grateful to see familiar faces in the crowd and reward that loyalty with some older favourites including the lovely ethereal Shadow Inversions and bluesy Three Of Us.

There’s a brief moment as Katherine and Jessica sort out their guitars but Katherine breaks the silence, “when we pay up north during these random tuning bits…people shout out random town names…like…Wigan!” – but she feels this London audience is perhaps more inhibited. That’s the cue for random place names to echo through the venue including one wonderful cry of “Bumpstead!”.

Then it’s back to the forest again..there’s something stirring in the trees as Smoke Fairies conjure up another portentous tale with Out Of The Woods. Featuring music that threatens a whole lot of love and 1970s prog-folk but produces lyrical images of fear, depression and menace, “when you gonna come out of the woods, come crawling through the leaves?”.

Smoke Fairies have always been storytellers and seamlessly blend the darkness with light throughout their folk fused blues moments. Recent single, Elevator offers a greater urgency and manages to rock out on the whole sliding doors, lift experience scene. Just perfect. Supernatural niche.

Grimm, but never grim, Smoke Fairies have journeyed to the gingerbread house and everyone has gorged on their sweet harmonies tonight but there’s always been something lurking in the shadows…

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