Julie Byrne @ Mono, Glasgow, 17 Nov

Julie Byrne's first Glasgow gig in six years is an intimate, delicate and honest celebration of music as catharsis

Live Review by Liam Casci | 20 Nov 2023
  • Julie Byrne

To a polite smattering of applause, New York-based singer-songwriter Julie Byrne weaves her way through the crowd towards the stage, following her two band mates, the multi-instrumentalists who have joined her on this tour. With a laid-back atmosphere, and the subtle smell of the recently closed kitchen lingering in the air, Byrne compliments the venue’s charm, acknowledging it as “one of the most iconic record stores in all of Scotland”, as late-comers delicately open and close the door to the main entrance, which is right next to the stage. 

Tonight's setlist mostly consists of songs taken from her last two records, 2017’s Not Even Happiness, and this year’s The Greater Wings. Though for many the music may prompt feelings of grief, like a beautifully crafted elegy, Byrne often smiles to herself throughout the set or to the attentive audience before her, suggesting that even moments of sorrow can still be an instance of inspiring catharsis. 

The delicacy of each picked string, or the lilt of each note she sings is presented without any decoration; there is nowhere for Byrne, or her bandmates, to hide and they play with a confidence in themselves, and one another’s abilities, as a result. Of course, this doesn’t mean they are perfect, as Byrne stops halfway through the title track of her latest LP, having forgotten the words. The irony isn't lost on her as she jokes with the audience about the mishap in a good-natured manner that further adds to the evening’s intimacy; the music is real, the performance honest. She starts the track over again, as requested by a crowd that also seems to be in complete harmony. 

Following a note-perfect rendition of Summer Glass, the trio share gestures of appreciation at the response. Byrne remarks that she feels the need to thank each member of the audience individually for the reception, a sentiment that feels sincere; warmth is felt in the room, despite the sinking November temperatures outside. 

There is a brevity to the set: “We’ve only two songs left. How did that happen?” she playfully asks a crowd that voices their displeasure towards the night approaching its conclusion. With a gentle cadence, she asks for the house lights to be dimmed further, turning the space from a stage to a scarcely lit den. Byrne ends the set with emotive powerhouse, and The Great Wings' closer, Death Is the Diamond. 

When she returns to the stage she does so alone for a dreamy rendition of single Sleepwalker, before she exits once more, disappearing amongst her fans, who no doubt share the hope that it will not be another six years before she returns.