REVIEW: Talisk at the Ark

As Talisk’s performance began, their rich music charged into the audience of the Ark not unlike a great gush of water breaking past a dam. It is truly exciting to witness a band’s live set after hearing their recorded music, but Talisk presented a set that would blow anybody’s expectations out of the water. Their bright, booming entrance brilliantly set a high musical bar that instantly pulled me to the edge of my seat.

Each member of this group brings a specific and unique element that contributes to their overall quality: BBC Radio Scotland best summarized the stage presence and musical talent of Mohsen Amini when they called him a force of nature. With a speaking voice that sounds the way a rich, dark lager tastes, Amini’s concertina playing is the lifeblood of Talisk. Accompanying the concertina is the seemingly-effortless violin playing  from the sweetheart of Talisk, Haley Keenan, who possesses musical range and technical excellence. Lastly, guitar player Graeme Armstrong, newest member of Talisk, provides a strong and constant presence through his powerfully precise pickings and strummings.

Talisk’s musical set at the Ark was so sharply delivered and seamless that I often wondered if this performance had been pre-recorded. Not so! Through ever-so-slight onstage communication, Talisk took their audience through corridors of traditional acoustic folk music only to thrust them into great halls of pulsing Celtic rock. How enchanted I was by the genre barriers they crossed, and the ease at which they operated their respective foot pedals and switches that allowed them to pivot back and forth into various  musical modes.

I had the pleasure of chatting with the Talisk members after the show, and it really struck me how charming each member was.  It left me wishing that they had shared more stories during the set. Additional banter and camaraderie between the individual members during a performance would definitely round-out their collective stage presence. Alongside this, I believe that an attention-getting opener is well placed for a venue like the Ark, however, Talisk could have allowed themselves a bit more space and time to build their sound and reveal all of their musical tricks, lest they exhaust their audience’s excitement with no direction to expand.

Turnout for this event was unusually low, I believe, because of Ann Arbor’s social-distancing initiative to slow the spread of corona virus. This is a true shame, especially as Ann Arbor faces an artistic desert for the foreseeable future. With a musical set that was tightly synchronized and an off-the-hook ambiance, Talisk really blessed their audience with a warm and lively spirit that I truly hope carries over into our daily lives through these unique times to come.

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