Taking a break from the day job in your early thirties to start up a music career may sound like a recipe for disaster, but then Jessie Buckley doesn’t have your average day job. The Oscar-nominated star of Chernobyl, The Lost Daughter and I’m Thinking of Ending Things spent a sizeable portion of her pandemic lockdown making an unexpected album with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, and last night in Camden’s ornate Green Note, the fruits of their collaboration received their triumphant public debut.
Buckley claimed to be nervous, but none of the hundred or so in attendance were buying it. Hands in her jean pockets, she was at total ease on stage, breezily regaling the audience with tales of her chance meeting with Butler in the mountains of County Kerry in 2019. And then, as tracks like Babylon Days and The Eagle & The Dove arrived, the room took flight, lifted by the self-assured power of Buckley’s deeply expressive vocals.
She sings as though she is the master of decades of battle-worn scars, for which even her lifelong background in musical theatre and performance has no right to prepare her.
For All Our Days That Tear the Heart, the title track of the album that is released on June 10 on EMI, taps into an Irish folksong tradition that is as old as the hills on which the duo met, with Butler’s delicately plucked acoustic strings, backed by violin and double bass, at first coaxing a gentle lament from Buckley, before the quartet eventually erupted into a collective life force strong enough to traverse the rasping winds and chopping tides that the song so richly evokes.
The bond between Buckley and Butler was clear to see, from the smiles that they exchange during their call-and-response vocals on Footnotes on the Map to the moment before the start of Shallow the Water when Butler, the old hand, reminded Buckley that she needed to calm herself and lower her energy for the plaintive song ahead.
Beautiful Regret touched on the country music influences that Buckley had previously shown an affinity for with her performance in 2018’s Wild Rose, and it was in support of the release of that film that her only comparable previous live music experience had taken place, including a show at this same venue. As that song drew to a close, Buckley exclaimed that the night’s experience had been “mindblowingly thrilling”, and whether she knew it or not, she was speaking for the entire room.