Darling Ghost is a collaboration between singer and pianist Sheena Bernett, four woodwind musicians and two spoken word performers, bringing what they describe as “theatrical anti-punk” to the calm, relaxed venue of St Mark’s Unitarian Church.
The performance is very emotional, with more than a touch of youthful whimsicality.
Bernett’s vocals swoop from Kate Bush wailing to a more powerful type of American musical theatre sound, occasionally stopping in for an animalistic growl along the way. This isn’t really a traditional indie gig that runs through a few album tracks and a hit single, but instead feels more like a single 45-minute flow of music, with occasional breaks for spoken word performances. These interludes can be interpreted as a single narrative if you like, but mostly seem like individual vignettes illustrating particular emotions or scenarios in a person’s life.
The performance is very emotional, with more than a touch of youthful whimsicality. The stage is decorated with branches and flowers, and Bernett comes onstage wearing a floor-length vintage gown and with a pair of wooden antlers poking out of her tangled hair. Her woodwind band are more comfortable to stay back and play in a more traditional fashion, leaving her non-musical collaborator free to explore the full space of the venue.
This show does require a certain openness from its audience. At times the spoken word sections can seem awkwardly intense, and may make the cynics in the audience cringe. But happily, this group doesn’t go overboard with its pagan bookshop aesthetic, and the spoken word performances do generally meld well with the background of muted clarinet, flute, saxaphone and piano. When the focus is on Bernett herself, the overall impression is like a more surreal spin on piano-based singer/songwriters like Regina Spektor and Amanda Palmer.