Galloway-based singer-songwriter Zoë Bestel brought her unique and captivating brand of nu-folk to Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms on 4th May, as one of two special solo concerts to launch her eagerly-awaited second album, Transience. There was a real buzz in this intimate space, as Zoë Bestel took to the stage and informed us that she would be playing all of the songs on the new album in sequence. This required some switching between tenor and baritone ukuleles between songs, while Bestel kept us entertained with her charming and engaging chat and banter.
In the opening song, Tail Of The Sea, rhythmically-strummed chords created a sense of urgency, as Zoë Bestel spun an engrossing tale of ultimately tragic maritime misadventure. Bestel’s gifts as a storyteller in song were in evidence again in the highly imaginative Dragons, an enchanting, fairytale-like fantasy. The reflective Grey Skies combined graceful and soothing vocals with an elegant ukulele motif to beautiful effect, while Bestel sang of the importance of perspective and a positive outlook…”Oh, can’t she see, those grey skies look blue to me.” Chiming, waltz-time chords ushered in the expansive Clockwork, another imaginative song in which a music-box figure longs to break free from her monotonous existence.
Riding the crest of a breezy, calypso rhythm, the bittersweet Blankets In Iceland described a whole host of “bucket list” activities which might help Bestel to escape the heartbreak of a failed relationship…”You’ll find me under blankets in Iceland, you’ll find me in five years or more, you’ll find me eating bagels and ice cream, come and find me ‘cos I’m done waiting for…” Choppy rhythms emphasised the heartfelt message in Spiders”, in which Zoë Bestel poured scorn on the invasiveness, cruel spin and fake news perpetrated by certain sections of the media…”Oh, what a tangled web they weave.”
I have to emphasise that Zoë Bestel’s ethereal vocals were absolutely stunning, with each song holding the audience spellbound from the first note to the last. Bestel also used her voice as a wondrous instrument, swooping and soaring and weaving in and out of the music to glorious effect.
The next two songs were woven together, as the dreamy and enigmatic Blue segued seamlessly into Grand Scheme, a philosophical reflection on the mystery of
life. In Gumusservi (the Turkish word for moonlight shining on water), Bestel boldly and poetically imagines the moon and the sea as lovers following each other for eternity. Poignant, flamenco-like chords set the tone for the tender and achingly beautiful Metaphors, which featured very deep and personal lyrics. Zoë Bestel told us beforehand that she daren’t catch her Mum’s eye during this song, as they would both end up in tears…
The main set finished with Eye For An Eye, the breath-taking first single from the new album, in which Bestel eloquently vented her anguish, frustration and despair at the 2015 air strikes in Syria (tragically repeated only recently)…”Oh, when will it end? When we’ve murdered all of our friends?” For an encore, the Massive Attack classic, Teardrop, was given the Zoë Bestel treatment as a spine-tingling cover.
With mesmerising performances such as this and a stunning new album, Zoë Bestel is well and truly living up to her reputation as one of the country’s most exciting and original emerging singer-songwriters.
For more information on Zoe Bestel, click here