The ‘Shadow Navigation Show’ enchanted the audience in the beautiful surroundings of St. Mary’s Church last week, marking the return of the beguiling of Jo Beth Young to Totnes for the first time in over four years (when she performed with the name ‘Rise’).
This time she plays under her own name and has teamed up with the fascinating artist ‘Serious Child’ in a combined show where they perform with each other in two different sets, featuring the same band.
Local artist Edward Gild opened the evening, engaging the audience with his performance of personal songs. His fine acoustic guitar playing, and his mellow voice was reminiscent of Nick Drake at times, and he set the scene perfectly for the show to come.
The first half of the show focused on Serious Child (“my parents called me… ‘Serious’…”), who entertained with a mixture of songs filled with ‘stories about real people’ interspersed with gentle humour. Jo Beth Young joined Serious Child on a variety of instruments including guitar, keyboards, recorder and bodhran. Serious Child has a lovely rich and versatile voice to fit the differing moods of his songs. Two of the highlights were the opening song The Oak and Brambles from his 2020 album ‘Time in the Trees’. Ben Roberts on cello was particularly outstanding on Brambles, producing a range of unusual sounds from his instrument. A song from his next album was a showcase for some lovely harmony vocals with Jo Beth Young. Serious Child seemed equally adept on guitar, keyboards and even harmonium.
it was a powerful opening
There was a real sense of this artist laying out some of his most significant memories, such as the touching song about his Dad always playing the song ‘Old Man River’ on a record player before Sunday dinner – it felt like we were there in that dining room with that music evoking such vivid memories for him. Similarly, Three Hail Marys, powerfully portrayed the story of his family’s excommunication from the Catholic church… it’s a long story, but fascinating! Serious Child turned his attention to the Lockdown experience for four people in the insightful Talk about the Weather, evoking that eerie sense of dislocation and isolation for many. His most impactful song came right near the end with Light a Candle, written for his brother, Dave, who has lived in Ukraine for 16 years and drives relief convoy trucks there. Serious Child related that his brother had lost an eye to shrapnel in the conflict, but bravely still drives those trucks so he wrote a song to raise money for his aid charity.
The church setting was perfect for this song of faith. Serious Child ended his set showing that he was not always serious with a more upbeat song, Turn the Music Down, about the experience of artists being told to ‘get a real job’. This was an outstanding first half to the show with all the musicians excelling, including Pete Lamb on guitar.
The second half…
…commenced surprisingly with Jo Beth Young processing down the aisle from the back of the church singing Yahweh – Fear a Bhata, ‘invoking the many names of the Lord’ in different languages – it was a powerful opening. Jo Beth is an engaging performer who was at ease explaining the premise of the Shadow Navigation Shows – the name is based on an early song she wrote, based on the much darker original fairy tale of ‘Cinderella’ in which there is beautiful benevolent creature following her to keep her safe.
In Shadow Navigation Jo Beth imagined that creature to be a Fox and this imaginative story came across strongly. Jo Beth’s song stories ranged from sinister tales based on watching ’24 Hours in Police Custody’ (!!) in Radio Silence to a re-telling the ‘Little Match Girl’, wonderfully described in Chapel Bell, the only song she plays from her great 2018 album ‘An Abandoned Orchid House’ (when she performed as ‘Talitha Rise’). Jo shared that she wrote that song when she used to live in Dartington so Totnes is a significant place for her. Her songs ranged across other metaphorical creatures such as Rabbit Eyes (with a delightful xylophone effect keyboard from Jo Beth) about the need not to be a meek rabbit frozen in the headlights of life. Wolf Song, featured some eerily distorted cello and guitar with a harder edge, and ended rather humorously with the audience mimicking Ben Roberts’ wolf howl!
The evening ended quite wonderfully with Jo Beth telling her very personal story of becoming a ‘born again’ Christian following a revelatory experience in the Sacred Heart Chapel at Buckfast Abbey when she was suffering the broken heart of unrequited love. Jo tells this song with openness, and one got a real sense of love and happiness she feels about this change in her life. This this was not conveyed in a proselytizing or ‘preachy’ manner – this was just something really important to her that she wanted to share. To mark that event she sang a cover of a song by a Christian band called Hillsong, the inspirational Oceans, which seemed a perfect way to finish this lovely gig in a church.
The temperature was a little bracing in the venue, but these artists skilfully and intuitively warmed our hearts the whole evening. Serious Child and Jo Beth Young deftly interchanged instruments all night long, and similarly in their own different ways they weaved together magical musical spells in a spiritual place.
If you get the chance, navigate your way to seeing these great artists in action.
Thanks to Christian Murison and Katie Whitehouse for putting on such a special gig.
SETLIST 1 – Serious Child – :
Time Keeps Rolling
As Good as it gets
Three Hail Marys
Talk about the Weather
Light a Candle
Turn the Music Down
SETLIST 2 – Jo Beth Young
Yahweh – Fear A Bhata
Oceans (Hillsong Cover)
Jo Beth Young – Vocals, Keyboards, Recorder, Acoustic and Electric Guitar
Serious Child (Alan Young) – Vocals, Keyboards, Acoustic guitar, Harmonium
Ben Roberts – Cello & Wolf Howl (!)
Pete Lamb – Electric Guitar