REVIEW: Sarah Darling – Live At Night & Day Cafe, Manchester

For rising international artists hoping to make the trip across the pond, Sarah Darling is the prime example of how it is possible to build a loyal fan base here from the ground up. Through a number of festival appearances along with some very intelligently-chosen support slots, Sarah has really made a name for herself in the UK now and the rapid growth of her support base isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Rightly so, too. One of the most under-acknowledged talents in Nashville and one of the most genuine individuals in the business; the ‘Sarah Darling effect’ seems to impact people wherever she goes, and we greatly appreciate her efforts to keep coming back here.

I went to see Sarah last week at Night & Day in Manchester (please, Night & Day staff, get some air conditioning in that place!). There was a good turn-out, much better than I’ve seen for many others there, and I thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment provided by not only Sarah, but also Gary Quinn and Emma Stevens who opened the show. It was great to hear Gary showcasing some of his new material, including ‘Warm Dark Of Night’ which he wrote in Nashville with Steve Wariner, and the stunning ‘Love and Lose’ from his brand new EP which is certainly going to become a firm fan favourite. It was my first time seeing Emma Stevens too, who delighted the crowd with a selection of tracks from her recent album ‘To My Roots’ as well as the fan favourite ‘Riptide’. Emma has a crystal clear, effortless voice and a catalogue of infectious songs – I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on her!

Sarah kicked off her set with ‘You Don’t Have To Be Lonely Tonight’, a nice return to her early days and the ‘Home To Me’ EP, before treating us to a performance of ‘Where Cowboys Ride’ from our album of 2017, ‘Dream Country’. No matter how many times I hear this song, the magic is still just as strong and Sarah’s ability to pull it off live is second to none. She followed it up with the edgy foot-stomper ‘Tell That Devil’, before a spine-tingling performance of her ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’ rendition which I actually think is FAR superior to the original. I don’t think I’d ever heard her perform it live before, so this was a welcome addition to the set list.

What was great about the show was the amount of new songs Sarah included. My personal favourite was ‘Shimmer Like Gold’, which is sort of a dance track with a lovely atmospheric feel to it. It’s really infectious and I found myself humming it all the way home afterwards! ‘Diamonds’ was another highlight, which she co-wrote with Jessica Sharman (5 co-writes on the latest Ward Thomas album), another chance for Sarah to expose her beautiful, effortless vocal on a truly gorgeous piece of work.

The variation in the set list was great too – one minute we were swaying to the playful ‘More Issues Than Vogue’ (a cult favourite amongst C2C attendees!), another we were transported to the streets of Paris for idyllic ‘Montmartre’. It was fantastic to hear ‘Home To Me’ too, the song that kick-started my admiration for Sarah and she described it as the reason for her international career.

Towards the end of the show, she slowed down the pace with a performance of ‘Halley’s Comet’ which Radio 2 have embraced over the last year, before finishing with ‘Stargazer’ which stuns with its effective simplicity. Yet again, Sarah proved that she has one of the best voices in country music and provided everyone at the Night & Day with a magical night of fantastic entertainment. She’ll be back in the UK in June for Black Deer Festival – those of you who are going, you’re in for a treat!

Dan Wharton
@LifeInASong_Dan