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In a delightfully intimate show at Colston Hall, Stornoway plough through a substantial catalogue of music that the band have released over the past decade. Littering the space in the venue with their carefree brand of nostalgic indie, Issy Villiers bids a fond farewell to the folk quartet as they perform in Bristol for the final time.

Originating in Oxford, folk band Stornoway have been performing together for over a decade, starting their career in 2005. Over these formative years they have produced three studio albums, a surprise mini-album and two EPs. They are one of the most well established bands in this genre from the UK and became the first unsigned ensemble to perform on Later… With Jools Holland in 2009.

In October 2016 the band announced that they would be no longer, stating “our friendship and love of music remains as strong as ever, but over the last couple of years the winds of change have blown us all in different directions.” Brian is following his natural tendencies towards wildlife conservation, Rob is travelling to New York to pursue university and music, Oli is residing in London running a newly established business, Tigmus, for music enthusiasts and Jon continues to create music for radio, film and theatre in Stornoway’s birthplace of Oxford. Upon making their split known to the public the band also announced ‘The Farewell Tour’ which would take place at the end of February/March 2017 playing eleven different venues across the UK finishing in their hometown at the Oxford New Theatre Sunday 12th March.

Stornoway began their set with ‘Cold Harbour Road,’ from their first album Beachcomber’s Windowsill. The introductory violin solo effectively hushing the chattering crowd, immediately encapsulating the audience. This intense beginning was followed by the more upbeat ‘Between The Saltmarsh and the Sea’ from their more recent album Bonxie which recognised their deep compassion for nature, in particular Brian’s love of birds. The somber tone after these two initial tracks was soon to be lifted with Brian inundating the audience with statistics about Pancake Day, adding an air of light heartedness to an evening which, for many of the fans and band members could easily have easily been dominated by an air of poignancy.

The merry atmosphere continued to build as the set continued following on with the optimistic sounds of ‘You Take Me As I Am’ from their album ‘Tales From Terra Firma.’ This carefree air culminated with Stornoway’s cover of ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ featured in cult classic The Breakfast Club, which had the flock of fans flailing in all directions. Despite this, the core of their set was the most intimate and magical; the audience given unplugged acoustic editions of both ‘November Song’ and ‘Josephine’ which left one feeling nostalgic wishing this was not the end of such superb song writing.

Remembering listening to Stornoway in my bedroom in Scotland seven years ago it was a real treat to see them deliver such a generous performance.

Stornoway seemed to effortlessly captivate the audience of fellow ornithologists, I was certainly transfixed and the performance left me longing to accompany Stornoway on a camping trip, where I would lend an hear to their enchanting refrains around a bonfire. As it was, I was content with being transported on a woodland journey by the song ‘Farewell Appalachia’, in which the sounds of dry leaves cracking underfoot were cleverly mimicked by rubbing blocks of polystyrene together and, the chopping of firewood replicated literally by an axe on a piece of wood.

Stornoway’s set concluded like any good set should with their most well renowned songs, ‘I Saw You Blink,’ ‘The End of the Movie’ and ‘Zorbing’ leaving the crowd longing for more. Remembering listening to Stornoway in my bedroom in Scotland seven years ago it was a real treat to see them deliver such a generous performance. It brings a tear to my eye that these bright eyed and bushy tailed fledglings are now leaving the nest for good.


Do you have any fond memories of Stornoway? Let us know in the comments below or via social media.

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