The Decemberists and Olivia Chaney teamed up this year as Offa Rex, with the goal of (mostly) performing folk-rock covers of traditional British folk songs in the style of Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, etc. They released their very good debut album The Queen of Hearts on Nonesuch earlier this month and began a tour in Portland on Sunday (7/23), before hitting NYC’s Town Hall last night (7/26). The Town Hall show mostly had songs from their debut album, but also a couple Decemberists (“Shanty for the Arethusa” and “Rox in the Box”), and Olivia Chaney (“Loose Change” and “The Dark Eyed Sailor”) originals, and a few others.
Zachary Cale opened the Town Hall show. Pictures are in the gallery above and the setlist is below. Here’s an excerpt of Oregon Music News’ review of the Portland show:
After performing “The Gardner”, which required Meloy to pick up a harp, he commented, “This project is all about discovery. It is very hard to rock out while playing auto-harp. It is designed to be not to rock out.”
Discovery, indeed, as I suspect most of the audience wasn’t familiar with Chaney, who has made a name for herself in her native England. Her vocals were mesmerizing and she shined on quieter numbers like Flash Company and Dark Eyed Sailor. Her cover of First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Roberta Flack) was, in many ways, better than the original. The song also appears on the Offa Rex album, but reached new heights live in a room with plenty of space.
Chaney is also an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist and played guitar, keyboards, and a harmonium. The latter is often described as a pump organ, but it is easier to picture an accordion placed on a table with a flap that the player moves to facilitate airflow through the instrument.
Offa Rex’s tour continues at NJ’s XPoNential Fest on Friday (7/28) and Newport Folk Fest on Saturday. Before they leave the East Coast, Olivia plays a solo show at NYC’s Joe’s Pub on August 3 (tickets).
Offa Rex @ Town Hall – 7/26/17 Setlist
The Old Churchyard
Waxwing (Alasdair Roberts cover)
Blood and Glory
The Queen of Hearts
Shanty for the Arethusa (The Decemberists song)
Rox in the Box (The Decemberists song)
Loose Change (Olivia Chaney song)
The Dark Eyed Sailor (Olivia Chaney song)
Constant Billy (Oddington) / I’ll Go Enlist (Sherborne)
Willie O’ Winsbury
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Sheepcrook and Black Dog
To Make You Stay
photos by Sachyn Mital