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Volume 91, Issue 38
Wednesday, November 5, 1997
Nip it in the bud
Holly was McGnarley
Photo by Patrice Bilavka/MCA
By Kent McKee
With her perceptive band and unlimited voice, the appearance by Holly McNarland at midnight Friday was unmistakably one of the most undiluted and intensely passionate performances the hallowed walls of The Spoke has ever heard.
When she first surfaced on the stage, barefoot and strapped to a seemingly huge acoustic guitar, no one ever expected such a powerful and unique voice could be unleashed from a such a tiny, wide-open mouth. Holly McNarland has a voice so dynamic it leaves any crowd in awe.
Her ruggedly good-looking image perfectly compliments her tough and stormy stage presence. McNarland's songs describe emotions and personal stories with layers of energy and passion. She hooked audience members leaving them wondering what the next chunk of melody would contain. One of Holly McNarland's songs can range from silence or sparse acoustic guitar to all out wailing and long, loud vocal lines.
Although much of the lyrics are mildly depressing and have a bleak outlook on life, her honesty makes the songs appear as personal stories. These stories are about everything ranging from love, hate, loneliness, death and disease, to her dog Owen.
The band interacts well with each other, as they all appear to "feel" McNarland's songs. The lead guitarist, Matt Kelly, is inventive as he often adds resonant, distant riffs. He also played a stellar slide guitar.
To promote the Halloween spirit, all the guys in the band dressed like cowboys (everyone looks good in a 10 gallon hat). The dim and mysterious atmosphere was also enhanced and illuminated by the numerous masked spectators who rushed the stage, dancing with such costumes as Xena, Batman, Cruella, the Jester, Radioactive man and Space. Even the Tick made a drunken appearance.
One interesting moment arose when McNarland announced her favourite band was The Gandharvas, a London-based group. She then asked if the audience had ever heard of them.
After the traditional hooting and yelling for an encore, the band came back to perform an extended version of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight." It started out very sparse before building to a colossal climax about eight minutes later.
McNarland's latest major debut CD is called Stuff. It proves she is a progressive songwriter who is able to release her building tensions simply by being a musician. However, it is compelled by a talent that is unique compared to a lot of recent musicians she can really sing.
Although the show seemed too short, it was well worth the $8 cover charge. All the ordinate freaks crept out of the pub into the insolent, damp Halloween night; charged and ready to smash pumpkins.
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997