Review: ‘A Divine and Heavenly Sound’

Clara reviews Billie Marten at The Crescent, York for SCENE.

(Image: Clara Downes)

It’s a chilly winter’s evening, and I am making my way to The Crescent with my friend, Anouska, excited to hear the music of Billie Marten, singer-songwriter and musician from Ripon, North Yorkshire.

We have arrived early to ensure we are close to the front. The ceiling is starry with fairy-lights, the stage is lit up electric blue, covered in an array of instruments.

Opening artist Clara Mann walks onto the stage. Mesmerising chords begin to soar out of her acoustic-electric guitar, along with soft vocals that increase in strength during particularly resonant lines.

I am struck most by her lyrics: Mann tells stories and paints pictures within her music. Her genre is generally folky containing hints of the classical,a style of her own which cannot be defined by one label.

Clara’s set has come to an end, and an echoing applause follows which spreads across the audience. 

We are left again with the blue stage and instruments, waiting quietly in anticipation for the main artist.

The bass player is now playing an upbeat riff. The drummer accompanies, playing heavily on the bass drum. The energy in the venue is tense in anticipation for Billie’s Yorkshire reunion. Billie walks on the stage and in an effortless fashion, puts her electric-guitar strap over her head and begins to play her opening song, Garden of Eden

“Oh my god, I’m in love”, says Anouska, in awe.

Billie’s vocals certainly stay loyal to the song title, as a divine and heavenly sound transpires during the chorus. Her vocals are tastefully ornamented, ethereal.

“It’s really nice being here. I’ve been so far away,” Billie says in an interlude. It’s been an extraordinary year for Billie, as she completed her tour in North America following the release of her fourth studio album, Drop Cherries. She seems comforted by the familiar feel of playing in her home county.

Having caught a glimpse of the setlist before the show started, Anouska knows that Vanilla Baby is next, a song that she herself can play on guitar by heart

She quickly grabs her phone from her pocket and types “Can I play Vanilla Baby?”, expanding the letters so it invades the entirety of her phone screen. She holds up her phone and turns it to face Billie.

Moments later they are playing guitar together; in a beautiful fusion of acoustic and electric. It is a truly special four and a half minutes as everyone observes the connection between an artist and her adoring fan.

As the show nears its end, Billie’s band gather closely around her and Clara Mann returns to the stage. They begin to play Acid Tooth. The huddle of musicians play double bass, guitar and viola, all whilst joining in on vocals.

There is a beautiful intimacy as all their voices blend and harmonise. The viola sings out over the audience. The mesmerising guitar riff is interwoven throughout the song; occasional embellishments are added to change up the sound.

After a few more songs, the night now comes to a close as Billie and her phenomenal band leave the stage: we are again left with the blue, empty space where they once were. 

I ask Anouska what it was like to play with Billie, to which she responds “I started playing guitar because of her music. It was so surreal.”

Billie’s music resonates with me for the rest of the evening. I immediately add all of her songs from the set to a playlist in desperation to relive the magical evening once more. 

Billie Marten performed a concert, a masterpiece, which I will never forget.

With thanks to The Crescent for making this review possible. 

The Crescent Community Venue is a fully licensed bar, concert and events venue.  A former Working Men’s Club, it has a long history of community spirit and musical entertainment spanning over 100 years, and since re-opening has rapidly developed into a key component of York’s music and cultural life.