“I wrote it when I was coming back to life.” Beginning her concert in Estonia’s capital Tallinn with Here Before from her 2009 comeback album Lookaftering, Vashti Bunyan acknowledges that fans of 1970’s Just Another Diamond Day might reasonably have thought that she’d evaporated into the air not long after its release.
“She is surprised the rapt audience know her and her songs.”
Six years on, Bunyan’s comeback retains its element of delightful surprise, but the worry that it might puncture the enigmatic atmosphere of …Diamond Day has proved unfounded. Lookaftering and last year’s follow up Heartleap both seamlessly bond with her 1970 album. It is as if the almost four-decade break never happened. Yet she has said that Heartleap is to be her final album.
On stage, in the 16th-century hall of Mustpeade Maja – the building which housed the medieval trade guild The Brotherhood Of The Blackheads – Bunyan gives little away about her future plans. She smiles. She is surprised the rapt audience know her and her songs. But there is a hint of what may be to come. After a crystalline, hearbreaking interpretation of …Diamond Day’s title song she says “I wrote it a long time ago when I believed life could be simple. I don’t know if I believe that now.” Is another retreat not far off?
Bunyan is playing Tallinn Music Week, Estonia’s annual celebration of its own music, that of the neighbouring Baltic states and Scandinavia. Amongst the carefully chosen visitors from further afield, she seems simpatico with those sharing her bill: the local folk and traditional-based artists Mari Kalkun and Maajra Nuut. Like Bunyan, they draw on folk but bring it new – their own – voices. All three represent unbroken traditions which, in their hands, remain eternally contemporary.
Accompanied by her regular sideman Gareth Dickson, Bunyan performs songs stretching back to her 1966 single Train Song. Whether selecting from Just Another Diamond Day, Lookaftering or Heartleap – which contributes Across the Water, Gunpowder and its title song – Bunyan shows she exists in her own continuum. These fragile yet powerful songs are outside time – just like the hall she fills with her yearning compositions.
If Bunyan is about to withdraw to her private sanctuary once again, this mesmerising concert confirms that the spell cast by her music cannot fail to linger.
Photo: © Kristjan Indus