Live Review: Rachel Sermanni at Summerhall

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Indie-folk singer-songwriter Rachel Sermanni delighted with an acoustic set as she played at Edinburgh’s Summerhall on Friday, September 29, playing old releases and some songs from her latest album, Dreamer Awake.

The evening was nothing short of spellbinding and perfectly aligned with the equinox (full moon). The equinox is when the sun crosses the equator, resulting in days and nights of approximately equal length from March 21 to September 23.

Rachel confirmed that her latest album revolves around this celestial event, adding an ethereal touch to the already magical night.

Before Rachel took the stage, Australian indie-folk singer-songwriter Maggie Rigby performed a stunning acoustic set. Upon arriving in Scotland, Maggie quipped that her guitar had made it before her.

Support act, Maggie Rigby, during her opening acoustic set. Image credit: Lucy Smith

It was her first performance for a Scottish crowd, in which she captured the audience’s attention with her mesmerising vocals and acoustic guitar while singing her latest singles. One of her songs, Back to You, which reflects on a breakup, was particularly moving.

Maggie’s musical style is a mixture of indie folk and country. Like Rachel, Maggie is a masterful storyteller in her song writing.

Maggie is a promising new talent and one to watch. It was a lovely way to start the evening.

Then, Rachel graced the stage and played the title track from her 2022 EP Every Swimming Pool Runs to the Sea. As Rachel strummed her acoustic guitar, she beautifully weaved seaside imagery into her lyrics, reminiscing about her past relationships and her life with a wistful tone.

Rachel then started performing songs from her latest album, Dreamer Awake. The first track she played was Jacob, one of the singles she released before the entire album. As soon as Rachel played the first chord on her guitar, the audience fell silent in awe of her enchanting stage presence.

Rachel singing the gorgeous title track from her EP ‘Every Swimming Pool Runs to the Sea. Image Credit: Lucy Smith

Rachel continued to play more songs from Dreamer Awake, slowing things down as she played a couple of gentle tracks. Among these were True Love Let Go, a delicate song in which Rachel sang gorgeously, and Grace of Autumn Gold – a hauntingly melancholic song – the song on the album that serves as the threshold in which the seasons change from warm, bright springtime to cooler, darker autumn as Rachel’s vocals and instrumentals shift to a minor key, tying into the theme of the equinox.

During her performance, Rachel also played Big Desire from her latest album. This was the song that I had been eagerly waiting to hear. Even without the accompaniment of a full band, Rachel delivered a captivating acoustic version of the track. The new rendition still featured the driving bassline, which she managed to create with the lower strings of her acoustic guitar. Getting to experience it live was truly a special moment that I will always cherish.

Rachel played another older track called Put Me in the River from her album So It Turns, which was released in 2019. Rachel’s voice was sorrowful and raw, and what gave the song and her performance even more depth was her reference to the equinox.

It furthered the theme of Rachel’s latest album, Dreamer Awake. This album explores the idea of transformation and mortality, perhaps symbolised by the equinox, as Rachel expresses her deepest feelings about death and life. It added resonance to the performance.

As the evening drew to a close, Rachel brought Maggie back on stage to perform her single Lay My Heart, which was released in 2017. During the chorus, Rachel urged the audience to join in and sing with them. Rachel remarked to the crowd that “everyone could sing louder”, and that we “all sounded a bit polite.” The audience laughed and took her feedback into account, and then proceeded to bellow the rest of the song with full enthusiasm.

Rachel and Maggie singing Rachel’s single ‘Lay My Heart,’ backed by the crowd. Image credit: Lucy Smith

Rachel and Maggie ended the evening with a flawless cover of Norman Blake’s Church Street Blues, harmonising effortlessly and igniting the room with their sweet melodies. It was a simple note to finish a brilliant evening of live music.

Featured Image Credit: Lucy Smith

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BA (Hons) English Studies and Journalism Studies student with an interest in music, news, and film and TV.

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