Herringthorpe Leisure Center - Rotherham, England
After a year they would rather forget, including a studio flood and serious illness to singer Kirsty McCarrick, Quecia are well and truly back with a new live show and a new album. After the relatively restrained tones of their promising debut This is Where We Are (review) the new look Quecia may surprise some people. As a live act the have certainly "rocked up," with a harder edged guitar sound – whether playing both new material or old. Even better news is that the new material--on first listen--sounds very strong indeed. Notable new songs included the up-tempo "Bird in a Cage" and the chorus-driven "Rescue Me." While, of the old songs, "Winter Tale" and, especially, the encore "Sleepwalking in Paradise" really work well. Kirsty now sings the emotional "Bitter East Wind," again played with a much harder rock edge, but Paul gets his own chance to shine vocally, with his bluesy rendition of the Police's "Roxanne."
Of the band, hard hitting new drummer Steve Atkinson is fitting in well, alongside the solid bass and keyboards of Chris Picton and, in particular, the excellent guitar of Paul Ayre. There are also real signs that the band is starting to gel--those moments when a band really gets to know each other and starts to play intuitively. Further more they can only get better. As for the singing, Kirsty McCarrick is really developing as a live singer. She delivered an immaculate vocal performance, and with her mane of hair she really looked the part as a rock singer in 70s style! I almost expected her to pick up the mic stand in Paul Rogers fashion at one point. A final word should go to Hayley, her sister, on backing vocals. She really is a little powerhouse in her own right, and her harmony vocals sound quite fantastic. Singing together, the girls are spine tingling.
They played: "Hideaway," "Circles," "Fight for This," "See Me Fall," "Alive," "The Difference," "Bird in A Cage," "Roxanne," "Bitter East Wind," "Stay," "Winters Tale," "Rescue Me," "New Dress," "Too Late to say Goodbye," "Line in the Sand." Encores: "Sleepwalking in Paradise," "Wrong Kind of Love."
Quecia plan to greatly increase their live presence during 2004, and readers would be well advised to check them out as quickly as possible. They are well worth it.
At the after show shindig we spoke to guitarist Paul Ayre about the evening's events and a lot more:
Musical Discoveries: So – did you enjoy the concert?
Paul Ayre: Fantastic. The best gig I’ve played in years. Really enjoyed it. I thought the band are getting tighter and tighter. We can still step it up another couple of gears, but I was talking to Steve the drummer when we came off and he loved it, and he's very critical. It's all about enjoying it, and tonight we did.
The new material sounds a lot more confident.
It should be. We rehearsed it a lot in the studio, so we know it back to front, but, again, we're better live. I think it sounds a bit claustrophobic in the studio, but it comes across better in a live setting.
How does the second album compare to the first?
Certain parts of the album, especially a song called "The Difference," are really well produced, and we've captured that. Other songs we struggled to capture a little more, but it's far better produced than the first album, because we have a purpose built studio. It slightly restricted us, though--we didn’t think it was going to do that. The first album was recorded in a pub, and in other, different locations, so we got different feels. When you are in one location with one set up it's hard to get that variance. There's a track called "The Rhythm" which is very different for us, lots of keyboards and a very heavy chorused effect on the vocal. Chris had put a lot of work into that, and we hardly changed anything. I think it's one of the best tracks on the album.
Have you purposely decided to "rock up" for this album?
Most definitely. There's a lot more guitar and a lot more guitar solos on this album. We didn't really plan it like that, though.
Have you played live much in the last year?
No. With building the studio, writing and recording the album, it hasn't been possible. But the studio and the album are finished now, so playing live is our priority. We're going to be gigging all over the place, and we're hoping to get back to America in the summer. We're going to Memphis.
How did the whole Memphis thing come about?
A producer who has worked with Al Green and Tina Turner who is connected with a nightclub / bar / studio there contacted us because he was looking for British bands, so we went over to have a look. We really want to record a "Live in Memphis" album. We'd like to go back to play some gigs in the area and record the live album because they have the facilities to do that, and we want to prove what we are like live. Live in Memphis has a bit of a pull to it, whereas, with respect, "Live in Rotherham" doesn't! We might get that live feel on the third studio album--which we've written stuff for--it won't be two years before that comes out!
Do you think you’re going to extend songs on stage?
Yes, but what I think some people like about us is that we do play short songs. We don't go for 20 minute guitar solos, so there won't me much that is more than 6 or 7 minutes long.
We noticed tonight that there was really something starting to gel.
Yes, the entire band said so when we came off stage. I think in this past year there have been too many things going on to really get that. Tonight I felt really confident, and I haven't felt that for years. We were also having a laugh, so it's actually coming together.
Hayley really seems to benefit the live sound, too.
Definitely. With her being young, she has been the last person in the studio to do her bits, the last person to rehearse, so she has found it the hardest to fit in, but she is doing an amazing job. Every gig, you can sense she's getting better, and everyone feeds off it.
Kirsty sounds like she has really come on as a singer as well.
Definitely. When the band gels onstage, it relaxes, and you can really start to put everything into it. The rehearsal time has paid off now, and within three months you'll see a big difference in the band. We are going to be bang on. We've got virtually all the set, though there are a few bits we still want to put in. We're going to continue rehearsals and continue gigging. We all believe we can go up by another couple of levels.
So what's next? Where do you see yourselves in a years time?
I really want us to have the live album under our belts, and have some success with "Hideaway" that we’ve done the video for. We've already been approached by Sky TV who are going to put it on two or three of their channels. After that it could all turn round in a night, or it could be slow progress. If nothing happens with that video, we'll do another one. When we record the live album, we might decide that there's an old track we feel should be a single.
Have you thought of re-recording any of the older songs?
It's an old argument. When we recorded the first album we did our best in a situation that wasn't ideal. There's a lot of feel and a lot of good songs, like "Bitter East Wind" for instance. It's a very personal song. I wrote it about my father, and it's very good lyrically. Kirsty felt I should sing it then, which was a mistake, but we'd never played it live so we couldn't imagine that it would turn out like it has now. It's got power and meaning. But I think you have to draw the line somewhere, and maybe the live album will be where we re-record some of the old songs.
Are you likely to play a little acoustic set at live gigs?
Yes, that's going to happen. We are going to do "This is Where we Are," the title track from the first album, as well as a new song "Take it to the trees" which is also good lyrically, and was recorded acoustically live in the studio, with no overdubs. Kirsty had a cold that day, and doesn't like the vocal, but I think it sounds great, in the same vein as the first album.
Thanks a lot!
You're more than welcome.
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