The Blackheart Orchestra at Hemsley Arts Centre

The Blackheart Orchestra / Foxpalmer

Arts Centre, Helmsley, North Yorkshire
Friday, 19th April 2024

Tonight’s adventure involves the Friday traffic on the A19 from Newcastle to the picturesque market town of Hemsley in North Yorkshire. We arrived a little earlier than planned which gave us the chance to have a wonder around the old stone buildings, surrounded by glorious scenery. Unfortunately almost all the independent shops closed at 4:00 pm so we were forced to go to the pub, before a further adventure locating the venue – discretely nestled up a small lane, surrounded by cottages. The Blackheart Orchestra’s journey however was a little more fraught and as we entered the venue we found Chrissy and Rick in mid-sound check, which had a knock on effect of pushing the start time back half an hour…


Foxpalmer at Hemsley Arts Centre

Well if we had any gripes about our journey to the gig, then we need to spare a thought for Foxpalmer who travelled by train and bus from London. Our support the evening was the delightful Fern McNulty, performing as Foxpalmer (solo), who treated us to a short set combining her unique blend of catchy & edgy folk/rock/indie songs. What was refreshing to see that the vast majority of the audience came in to watch her set, and they were reward by a sparkling performance with a big guitar sound and an equally big vocal delivery which filled the whole room. All of the tracks were new to me, but instantly appealed, especially Forever which stuck with me. I will certainly be exploring her music further, as well and some live dates if possible.

Free From Desire
That Way
Foxpalmer (Fern McNulty) Acoustic Guitar, Vocals

LINKS: Facebook | Bandcamp


The Blackheart Orchestra at Hemsley Arts Centre

Although there were a few who had travelled from further afield, the vast majority of the audience for the evening I suspect were new to The Blackheart Orchestra, which made me think what they thought of the stage area with its impressive array of keyboards, guitars and assorted musical equipment. Certainly those who had viewed and booked via the Helmsley website will have seen the photo featuring a duo. Regardless and a little later than advertised the lights dimmed and the audience got their first glimpse of the orchestra as Chrissy Mostyn and Rick Pilkington entered the stage to a warm reception.

The gentle chimes of Raise Your Heart, from their Hotel Utopia album, opens proceedings – and then the music crashes in filling the auditorium with sound. What a great opener, it’s big, it’s bold, it’s orchestral, it’s atmospheric, and rising through it all is Chrissy’s vocals, especially so in the infectious chorus: “I’ll raise your heart, I’ll raise your hands, I’ll raise your voice”. The audience are immediately on board as our dynamic duo turn to the Mesmeranto album, launching into the upbeat and equally catchy Drown Me Out. Those familiar with the song, singing along…

TBO's Chrissy Moyston at Hemsley Arts Centre

Swapping the keyboards for her Paisley Telecaster Chrissy’s gently picked guitar and Rick’s subtle keyboards are the foundation for the lamenting The Tide, the first of many spell binding moments from this evening’s performance. Equally touching is A Dangerous Thing, although the eyes are drawn to Rick and Chrissy playing the same keyboard without tripping each other up. Regardless it is a faultless performance. You do wonder if life would be so much easier if they put all the music on to a laptop, but that’s not The Blackheart Orchestra, their performance thrives on interaction and without ‘the dance of the Korgs’ it wouldn’t have the same magic…

The Blackheart Orchestra at Hemsley Arts Centre

And another change of instrumentation, executed with the precision of a well oiled machine, as Rick swaps over to bass and Chrissy moves to the Korg X5 for Under The Headlights, the first single from Hotel Utopia. Another great song that marries TBO’s pop sensibilities with a strong message of letting go of our anxieties and embracing life.

TBO's Rick Pilkington at Hemsley Arts Centre

I’ve seen The Blackheart Orchestra a few times now and one thing that has always struck me is their warm and engaging personalities. They embrace the audience, touching each and everyone and by this point in tonight’s concert I doubt there was anyone who had not fallen under their charm. And who can resist Chrissy’s lovely smile…

TBO's Chrissy Moyston at Hemsley Arts Centre

Not surprisingly the vast majority of the evening’s set features tracks from their most recent album Hotel Utopia, however there are three new songs this evening. No spoilers… all I can say is the ‘new album’ is going to be awesome. 2017’s Diving For Roses is represented by the rousing Keep The Light In and the stirring Sebastian. It’s difficult to select highlights from a show that is just one big highlight…

Sadly the evening draws to a close, however there’s one more treat left and the ten minute ‘epic’ The Flood, the final track on Hotel Utopia and for the evening. I’m not sure quite what Rick and Chrissy make of falling under the ‘prog’ banner, but certainly the ‘prog’ community have welcomed them in. It’s fantastic way to end the evening and gives Rick the opportunity to play some mean guitar…

The Blackheart Orchestra at Hemsley Arts Centre

But they were never going to get away that easily, returning to rapturous applause to return to the stage to play the now customary Hey Pluto taken from their debut, Diving For Roses, a beautiful song, to round off an excellent evening…

The Blackheart Orchestra at Hemsley Arts Centre

Before wrapping up this review… some may remember in March this year and just as the tour started the TBO mixing desk failed. No sooner than they posted their dilemma their fanbase jumped in with offers to help buy a new one. Not surprisingly and pretty soon a whole new mixer was purchased with Chrissy & Rick acknowledging with a ‘knob’ or a ‘fader’ idea and a mention on the new album. I couldn’t resist printing out my Knob Klub certificate – which, once we had all stopped laughing, Chrissy & Rick kindly signed for me…

[Live photos by Chris Simmons]

Raise Your Heart
Drown Me Out
The Tide
A Dangerous Thing
Under The Headlights
In Another Lifetime
Night Circus
Better Than Me
Keep The Light In
The Warning
The Flood
Hey Pluto

Chrissy Mostyn – Vocals, Keyboards, Guitar, Omnichord
Rick Pilkington – Keyboards, Guitar, Bass, Percussion, Backing Vocals

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