The Beatrix Players met through the equivalent of a dating site for bands, but today they’re polyamorous. The three-piece line-up – Jess Kennedy (piano, vocals), Amy Birks (vocals, drum pad) and Amanda Alvarez (cello) – have been expanded with double bass, violin and French horn. This evening’s venue usually specialises in the quieter side of music. Their website states: “Sticks are always too loud at Green Note. Please make sure that you bring either hot rods or brushes to play with.” Tonight, however, the venue is filled to the brim with the band’s enveloping sound.
Opener Walk Away lays out their wares. Birks’ Kate Bush-esque vocals are punctuated by hits on the drum pad, accompanied by a Michael Nyman-style melody from Kennedy and underpinned by a mournful drone from Alvarez. High-Heeled Shoes, a song Birks claims is “about as romantic as we’re going to get”, sees more of a Tori Amos influence, an added earthiness referring to ‘the arch of your back’ and ‘the smell of your skin’.
The first of the set’s songs is about the angst of coming to live in a big city, and Not For The First Time relates to the band’s own experience. The melody reflects this, swinging from the small to a huge swell and back again. Surprisingly for a song that uses sleep paralysis as a metaphor for fighting to be heard in the music industry, Unpolished Pearl is one of the jauntier numbers in the set.
When announced, Obey Me gets chuckles, but the point seems to be with the object of the song rather than the author, and the combination of vocals and violin emphasise the air of yearning. Prog readers may be familiar with Lady Of The Lake from its wonderful video. As this is the launch gig for the single, it takes pride of place at the end of the set. Stylistically venturing into Mediæval Bæbes territory, the harmonies are in full force, with the piano rolling like a piece from The Piano soundtrack on an Arthurian tale as an allegory for a new relationship moving on to its next stage. Continuing to mine the historic vein, cries for an encore are met with Roses, a song that deserves to be in the closing credits for the next BBC drama covering the War Of The Roses.
After several years honing their set, and with the debut album due soon, 2017 looks set to be the year the big city takes notice of the voice of the Beatrix Players.