THERE are few better pairings currently doing the live music circuit than Sarah Jane Morris and Antonio Forcione. Individually, they are brilliant. Together, they are stupendous. Morris’ extraordinary voice, Forcione’s mastery of the guitar. Musical heaven.
The pair demonstrated their on stage harmony on Saturday (June 2) at The Bull’s Head in London’s Barnes, a musical oasis within sniffing distance of the River Thames. Despite the soaring heat in The Bull’s Head cavern which resulted in Morris reviving herself throughout with a hand fan and Forcione constantly in search of water, they excelled.
The two part set was framed by music from their 2016 album Compared To What but there was much more besides. Morris interspersing the music with amusing anecdotes about living for a quarter of a century with a member of the Pogues (she has since happily remarried) – and more moving thoughts on parents and wider issues such as our shocking treatment of migrants (fellow human beings). Then demonstrating an extraordinary voice which when required will seek out a depth as low as the Dead Sea. Spine tingling. Amazing.
Forcione, extracting incredible sounds from his selection of three guitars – using every conceivable part of each instrument. And when left to perform on his own, he excelled with his amusing homage to Henry Mancini and the Pink Panther (The Cool Cat) and a beautiful moving Alhambra – probably the highlight of a magical night.
A lot of Morris’ music is based around personal experiences or people in her life – love, falling out of love or caring for a loving mother in the twilight of her life. It makes it all the more intimate, all the more personal.
Awestruck, the night’s opening song, is about one of her girlfriends who cannot stop falling in love with every man she sets eyes on. Bare My Soul is a tender homage to her mother who lived with her part-time in the last couple of years of her life as she battled against leukaemia.
She dedicated Skeletons, a track off her 2007 album Migratory Birds, to a teacher who put her back on track as a 17 year old when her father went to prison – a teacher who now in his 90’s had been in the audience a week ago to see Morris perform at Warwick Arts Centre (University of Warwick).
Her marriage poem to husband Mark underpins Northern Light while Compared To What is a tribute to the ‘greats’ – the Roberta Flacks, Rosenbergs, Quentin Crisps and Martin Luther Kings of this world. People who made a difference.
With wonderful cover versions of Message in a Bottle, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Superstition and Dylan’s Blowing In The Wind (the encore), this was a night of musical magic. Despite the heat, Morris and Forcione triumphed. A dripping audience went home more than content.