Julie Byrne invites us to slow down. Her voice has crossed the Atlantic with the deep affection of acclaimed blogs (Tom Johnson of GoldFlakePaint can be found behind the merch desk) and contemporaries alike, without any need for her to embrace social media – refreshing, when compared to the increasingly invasive and relentless self-promotion employed elsewhere in 2017. Byrne’s performance, recorded work and onstage/offstage manner entwine seamlessly, laying the groundwork for an evening of authenticity delivered by a graceful and genuinely uplifting artist, delighted to connect with her audience.
Her songs and speech convey both hard earned wisdom and innocent wonder, and there is a remarkable, restorative beauty to be found within this, as Byrne channels strength and conviction from her willingness to be vulnerable and open to her surroundings and emotions. She connects with nature while laying bare intimate, human truths. These are songs to grow with – reflective, not nostalgic. The arrangements are sparse: gentle fingerpicking meeting the subtle synth of Taryn Miller as Byrne sings of moving away from greed and envy and learning how to feel content in simplicity. The two musicians have an easy connection, and it is a pleasure to watch them interact.
Taken from her latest record Not Even Happiness and concluding the main set is I Live Now As A Singer, sung tonight as a prayer for self-acceptance. With Byrne’s tender guitar absent, it stands out as a defiant, climactic moment in the set, resonating deeply with the Edinburgh audience, Miller creating a stirring, dream-like soundscape reminiscent of the Lost in Translation soundtrack at its most yearning. Other highlights include Marmalade (taken from 2014’s Rooms With Walls and Windows) and Sleepwalker. Byrne is a timely booking from Nothing Ever Happens Here, offering what we need in this age of mass-consumption and over-stimulus: time to breathe, think, feel and find grace.
A transformative experience from a gifted songwriter, parting ways with an audience both moved and emboldened to look at the world around and within them a little differently.
Words: Fraser MacIntyre
Photo: Jonathan Bouknight
Julie Byrne presented by Nothing Ever Happens Here, Summerhall, Aug 23, 8pm