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28 January 2004

The Disconnection Tour
Southampton, Joiners

(those are the two documented songs but the usual set was probably played)

Review by Darren Holdstock

I’m so lucky when it comes to good music. Since I was a small child I’ve sought out whatever takes my fancy, and now, many years later, I have a fine selection of the best music of diverse genres from all around the world. The trouble is, I’ve been exposed to so much good (and bad) music that it takes something very special indeed to impress me. But I still keep searching regardless, ‘cos there’s still artists out there that I’d love that I haven’t got to hear yet. Somewhere along the line Carina Round came to my attention; the reviews promised something interesting, so I ordered “First Blood Mystery” and a ticket to the Southampton gig in early January. Amazon still haven’t managed to procure this album for me even at the time of writing this, so I went to the gig having never heard a note.

The Joiners Arms is a small pub venue, albeit with a dedicated stage, PA and mixing desk. It doesn’t hold too many people, but it does have a knack of putting on some great bands before they get more widely known and, quite uniquely for such a space, manage to get a good sound. Support was from a fine local indie band (sorry guys, didn’t catch your name) and Honeymoon Machine, who went down rather well.

Carina and the band came on at 10pm, with the space now pretty packed. Apart from the 10 feet or so in front of the stage – for some reason, people were initially afraid to stand there, and Carina had to politely ask everyone to shuffle forward a bit so the bods at the back could get in.

And then the music started, and from the first few bars of “Shoot” I knew I was in the presence of greatness. Every song was just so right. Beautifully crafted, and executed with a passion that would do some serious damage in the wrong setting. A wonderful stage presence too, with Carina’s energy and devotion to the music, and the surreal sight of the guitarist in a scary-child T-shirt and plastic pirate mask and scarf.

Carina Round has also managed to attract a band that do her justice. The rhythm section are as tight as a frog’s nipsy, and manage to make the most complex arrangements sound so natural, which is several orders of magnitude more difficult than making complex rhythms sound complex. Nice to see a double bass taking up some space too. As if this wasn’t enough, she has one of the finest guitarists I’ve come across ever, and they just go so well together. There is a danger in having more than one person of great creativity in a band, but Tom Sizemore’s guitar style is the perfect match for Carina’s vocals. Both can be virtuosic without appearing flash or OTT, and always augment each other while never detracting. I’ve seen some attempts at playing power-chords on a slide guitar, but I’ve never seen it pulled off to such great effect. Outstanding.

There were plenty of wonderful moments between the music. At one point Carina mildly admonished the audience for liking her more than the support (“Why couldn’t you have been this nice to Honeymoon Machine?”), and for one song she gives her acoustic guitar to the Honeymoon Machine guitarist, who did a sterling job with the number (“Better than me…”), and she would have handed over vocal duties to the HM lead singer as well, if only he hadn’t fled in terror when this was proposed.

A wonderful moment at the end during the encore break: There’s nowhere in the Joiners for a band to hide backstage while the crowd stomp out their request for an encore, so the band had to hide crouched on the floor in a little alcove to the left of the stage, getting their breath back and sipping some welcome drinks. Also the setlist was pinned up on the wall behind them for all to read, so easy in the knowledge that the band were coming back on, the audience just sort of milled about for a couple of minutes until the band stood up again and made their way back on stage. "Monument". some wag in the audience stated baldly, reading from the setlist.

A great song to finish on. Carina thanked the audience for coming out on such a cold, icy night (we don’t see much snow in Southampton, alas) and at the end of the gig herself and some of the guys from the band were kind enough to hang around by the merchandise stall to chat to anyone who cared to say hello. So I just had to buy all the music available, and also a most excellent set of gig photographs, very sweetly signed on the spot by Carina. How did she know I’ve just redecorated and need some fine art for my walls? (Lovely composition, whoever took those pics.) I just had to say what a religious experience this gig was for me, and a secular and cynical old git like myself doesn’t get many of those to the lifetime.

I could’ve easily chatted away all night, but bands have other gigees to greet and hotel rooms to go to, so I bade my goodnights and left there wearing a smile. I listened to my newly purchased “Disconnection” CD in the car on the way home, but it hadn’t quite finished by the time I got there, so I went rally driving in a ton-and-a-half of old Citroen on the sheet ice round the backroads on the South Coast, and when it finished I played it again. And again. Eventually, after a couple of sideways hours on the ice (top fun! I just love sliding sideways), I went home to bed, and drifted off to The Disconnection, of course. I’ve been playing it several times a day since (along with the Into My Blood single), and it still hits the spot every time.

I just don’t have the superlatives to describe Carina Round’s music. I never thought I’d need ‘em – all the years I spent learning new swear words... To be born with that voice is quite a rarity, but it does happen, and if it’s a one-in-a-million voice, then that means there’s about 60 people in Britain alone who sound just as good. To have great taste in music definitely puts her in the minority, but again, it’s a big world and stranger things can happen. Having such songwriting talent, however, is quite exceptional, but more to the point, to have all these aforementioned characteristics in one person is really quite a phenomena. To have a great personality and to have developed an excellent attitude is not just the icing on the cake; it’s what drives everything else in her music, and audiences really pick up on that.

Treasure Carina Round. She is really something quite exceptional. I never thought this would happen with any artist, but she’s instantly made her way onto my A+ list, a very small and exclusive bunch of artists whose every official release, B-side, radio session and live bootleg I try to track down. The list now reads (in alphabetical order), PJ Harvey, Radiohead, Carina Round, and The White Stripes. With honourable mentions (in no order) to the Velvet Underground, Syd Barrett, Zero 7, Kathryn Williams, Nick Drake and Kristin Hersh. She’s in esteemed company I feel, and deservedly so.

Originally online at The Disconnection Carina Round Forum