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Christina Martin @ The Robin, Bilston, Wolverhampton – Monday 14th March 2016

posted 16 Mar 2016, 15:45 by Paul Woodward

Review by Woody

Canadian singer songwriter Christina Martin is currently well into a very extensive European tour and a night of chilled out pop rock at my favourite venue is exactly what I needed following a hectic rock n roll weekend in the north wales wilderness at the HRH AOR festival. I had thought this was to be a solo acoustic performance so it was a nice to see her other half, producer and guitar player Dale Murray take the stage with her. Not only did this mean more musical accompaniment to embolden the songs it also meant they plugged in, therefore giving the set a more vibrant feel than you usually get at unplugged acoustic shows.

Christina played a mix of songs stretching through her entire back catalogue and of course a healthy dose of her latest album It’ll Be Alright. Whilst essentially been in the pop rock genre there is a strong flow of Americana through her songs, most notably in some of the folk/country flavoured acoustic guitar that really evokes similarity’s to the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. That similarity isn’t just reserved to a similar style of sound but also in the depth and meaning in the song writing, Christina writes songs intended to connect with people emotionally and she does it amazingly well. The pop rock tag tends to make people think of a very throw away and shallow style of music but that’s not the case here, you have loads of hooks and smooth infectious melodies but you also have a deeper and more thoughtful collection of songs that a far more memorable and meaningful for listeners.

Murray plays a great support role for Christina he gives her the full spotlight whilst suppling complimentary backing vocals and some ingenious melodic and atmospheric guitar licks that make me wish I could play guitar so I could play them myself over and over.

I really like Christina’s emotive vocals and live they seem even more intense, you really feel every word of every song and you feel like your sharing something deeply personal. It’s not easy for all singers to truly let go and pour emotion into their live performances but with Christina every note and melody dripped raw emotion and it makes her songs even more powerful and stirring live. I’m sure for anyone with a strong connection to any of her songs it wouldn’t take a lot for her to make the hardest person shed a little tear.

It was a great evening all round, Christina and Dale’s musicianship was faultless throughout and the natural talent they both have is a real treat to witness, it was a chilled, emotive and overall a beautiful musical performance.

Christina kept us entertained in between songs with some anecdotes and jovial quips, I liked her giving us background on some of the songs sometimes and in the case of ‘Reaching Out’ actually made it even more emotional as it made me listen to lyrics in relation to how the mean to Christina when she wrote them. I have to admit I do like to make lyrics my own and make them personal to me, but in this case it made the song more powerful knowing the story behind it, it’s still relatable especially for people who may share a similar story.

Christina split the set into two halves with a mid-set break, which I found quite novel but this allowed Christina to meet her fans and sign stuff. In my case it meant a piss break and a trip to the bar without missing anything or having the band think I’m been ignorant. I wonder if I could talk more bands into to mid set piss and bar breaks hmmm…..

It’s hard to pick highlights because the set flowed seamlessly and you never felt like the atmosphere dipped or lost your attention. I’d probably lean towards songs that I already favour like ‘What I Always Knew’, ‘You Ran From Me’, ‘Two Hearts’ and the awesome ‘You Don’t Have To Leave Tonight’.

Other songs in the set were ‘Take Me Back In The Dream’, ‘Sleeping With A Stranger’, ‘I’ve Got A Gun’, ‘Marina’, ‘I’m Gonna Die’, ‘Somewhere With You’, ‘A Puppet Museum’ and ‘It’ll Be Alright’.

It was a very intimate feeling show from the get go but taking the intimacy that one step closer Christina and Dale unplugged and came off stage to stand right in front of us (it was an all seated show) to play their final song which I thought was really cool and a fantastic way to finish their set. I really enjoyed the entire show on many levels and was really glad I went even though I was still recovering from a mad weekend! I hope she comes back this way in the future!