Hurray For The Riff Raff, The Wardrobe, Leeds

Harry Owen May 23, 2011 0
Hurray For The Riff Raff, The Wardrobe, Leeds

Having recently had this band’s album on constant rotation after being alerted to it from a fellow Vanguard reviewer, I was looking forward to catching them live. Tonight they’re acting as the centrepiece to a triumvirate which also included rockabilly openers King Courgette and headliner Abigail Washburn. 
After a low-key introduction from the resident ‘MC’, the ‘band’ emerges on stage to an intimate audience hushed in anticipation. I use inverted commas here as the performers are just 23-year-old singer-songwriter and guitar/banjo player Alynda Lee Segarra and violinist Yosi Pearlstein. With the venue glowing atmospherically from the lights of the candles on tables they quietly introduce themselves and strum the chords to the first song – the country waltz of ‘Slow Walk’ and the audience are immediately captivated.

Alynda is a star in the making – born in New York, but ending up in New Orleans after travelling; she’s Puerto Rican in origin but also has an almost American Indian look about her. She’s resplendent in ethnic kaftan, cowboy boots and tattooed knuckles – one hand of which spelled ‘bird’, the other I couldn’t make out. Despite both performers looking like they would never say boo to geese, they’re surprisingly chatty and affable between songs.

In order to take some photos we had needed to assume a position stage left directly in front of an enormous wardrobe sized (appropriately enough) speaker stack. This was no hardship though as we were then able to fully absorb Alynda’s beautifully resonant vocals – and this was hardly a Metallica gig.

The set-list comprised of the majority of the album recently released in the UK – no impromptu ironic cover versions or any nonsense like that, of which I had no complaints at all as the album is a thing of austere beauty. Highlights were ‘Take Me’, ‘Youngblood Blues’ and ‘Too Much of a Good Thing’ during which Alynda tries to encourage the crowd into an improvised sing-along, which doesn’t quite take off due to the reserved clientele.

Despite being a support act, Hurray for the Riff Raff were definitely the highlight of this show. They completely mesmerized this audience with merely a couple of acoustic instruments, a sweet tender voice and a bunch of heartfelt, insightful and worldly-wise songs. Go see them or buy their album and you will see/hear for yourself.

Steve Claire

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