What’s a nice Irish lass doing in a place like this?
No offense to Jackson, the lanky, snow-white-haired, piano-playing, rock-steady, genre-bending chameleon from England, but Gentle Gem looks or acts nothing like the guy who was part of the New Wave movement in the late 1970s. The headliner of the night’s sold-out show is even old enough to be Hayes’ father, which he could be ... if only he were considerably better looking.
If Hayes’ introduction didn’t get the attention of the early arrivals, her dreamy 30-minute set certainly did. To answer the original question, Hayes was finishing up a series of dates in the United States opening up for Jackson to promote her third album, The Hollow of Morning, which was released September 30, 2008, via Second Motion Records.
The record was co-produced by longtime collaborator David Odlum, a onetime Dublin busker and former member of The Frames who brought some gravitas to the proceedings with his blazing electric guitar runs. Not that the audience needed to be pumped up for Jackson’s arrival.
They seemed content to sit through the soothing sounds of Hayes, whose smile alone could light up an entire theater. Resembling a petite version of Uma Thurman, Hayes is a wisp of a woman, and her songs seem even lighter. Not lightweight or lighthearted, mind you. Her profound words carry significant weight, yet with her feathery touch, they seemed ready to vanish into thin air, which would have been appropriate in this college town situated 5,400 feet above sea level.
Though she dressed down for the performance, wearing jeans and a beige tank top, with her blonde locks wrapped in a ponytail, the striking beauty was there for all to behold. And that ethereal voice wasn’t bad either.
Hayes began her six-song set with two selections from her 2005 release, The Roads Don't Love You, “Happy Sad” and “Easy On The Eye.” Wink, wink.
After switching acoustic guitars for the lovely “In Over My Head” from The Hollow of Morning, Hayes told the crowd to hold on while she searched for a guitar pick in the back pocket of her jeans. “I swear I’m a professional,” she said apologetically.
On the album, “In Over My Head” begins with the sounds of a gentle breeze blowing, birds chirping, and church bells ringing. It then transforms into a mid-tempo rocker blending her layered vocals with soaring guitars from My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields. It was one of the highlights of her show and the album.