Caroline Spence + Roseanne Reid, Night & Day Café, Manchester, 24th October 2019

Reviewing Caroline Spence’s recentMint Condition album for AUK, fellow writer Rick Bayles awarded it that rare accolade a 10/10 score, describing it as “flawless” and “an early contender for album of the year.” A glowing testimony – but could she deliver the same quality live? The short answer on the evidence of this performance is an emphatic yes…and then some. Accompanied by her long time UK touring guitarist, CJ Hillman, Spence kept an appreciative audience spellbound for the evening with her striking voice, engaging stage presence and above all, a set crammed with songs of the highest quality. Those songs, drawn mainly from ‘Mint Condition’ and its predecessor ‘Spades and Roses’ were the platform for a performance that was, to borrow a word, “flawless”. Continue reading “Caroline Spence + Roseanne Reid, Night & Day Café, Manchester, 24th October 2019”

Robert Ellis, Phase One, Liverpool, 22nd October 2019

Before Robert Ellis took to the stage tonight, a bunch of yellow roses were carefully spread out over the portable piano and the edge of the stage; this act would help set the tone for an evening from the man whose latest album is titled, unironically, ‘Texas Piano Man’. Continue reading “Robert Ellis, Phase One, Liverpool, 22nd October 2019”

Nathan Bell + David Leask, The Fallen Angels Club, The Admiral Bar, Glasgow, 17th October 2019

This was a welcome return to Glasgow by Nathan Bell for his last date on a short UK tour, prior to him appearing at Rambling Roots Festival in Utrecht a few days later. A heavy hitter in the AUK annual readers poll (Best male artist in 2017 and runner up in 2016 and 2018), Bell is a powerful presence on stage – wise and witty, a terrific guitarist with great songs to boot. His followers on social media will know that he is no fan of the current populist tosspots in power, both here and in the States, but live there are no polemics, he pours his passion into his songs. There are some excellent wisecracks about the two blond haired blimps scattered throughout the set but in the main, he’s here to entertain. Continue reading “Nathan Bell + David Leask, The Fallen Angels Club, The Admiral Bar, Glasgow, 17th October 2019”

King of Birds + The Logans, The Spree Festival, The Bungalow, Paisley, 15th October 2019

Renfrewshire is a small county in Scotland that punches above its weight historically.  But, for the “cradle of the Stewart kings” in a modern post-industrial climate, the emphasis these days is on promoting its rich creative sphere via events such as The Spree Festival, in Paisley, now in its eighth year. Tonight, King of Birds have packed the recently revamped Paisley venue, The  Bungalow. The band come from the village of Elderslie, just a few miles to the west,  and midway through the set, vocalist Charlie Gorman sings of growing up locally in ‘When we were Kings’. Continuing the regal theme, brother and co-writer/guitarist, Stirling, jokes about how the melodic inspiration for the song came from the first three notes of Elvis’s ‘American Trilogy’. Continue reading “King of Birds + The Logans, The Spree Festival, The Bungalow, Paisley, 15th October 2019”

Hootie & the Blowfish + Drivin N Cryin + Patrick Davis, Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, 12th October 2019

Hootie & the Blowfish are back. Following a ten-year break, they reformed in 2018 and have a new album due out soon. On 12th October, their tour of the UK & Ireland hit London. The date, although not sold out, was pretty close, and seeing as Brad Paisley was at the O2 Arena the same night, it was pretty good going. Continue reading “Hootie & the Blowfish + Drivin N Cryin + Patrick Davis, Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, 12th October 2019”

Curse Of Lono + John Murry, The Blue Arrow, Glasgow, 12th October 2019

It’s getting so that Curse Of Lono’s popularity has to push them into larger venues in the very near future. Over a short course they have captured the attention of Bob Harris (who awarded them the AMAUK’s Emerging Act Of The Year award back in January), released three albums and regularly sell out their UK shows. Tonight was no exception with the audience packed like sardines in the tunnel like confines of The Blue Arrow. An added bonus was the presence of the enigmatic John Murry as the support act but there was much more to his presence than just singing some songs before the main act as he and Curse Of Lono seem to have bonded somewhat and each helped out the other’s set. Continue reading “Curse Of Lono + John Murry, The Blue Arrow, Glasgow, 12th October 2019”

Jesse Terry + Emma Stevens, Cluny 2, Newcastle, 9th October 2019

Sharing the headlines on this tour of the UK and Ireland, Jesse Terry and Emma Stevens, two experienced singer-songwriters, hailing from opposite sides of the Pond, may have seemed an unlikely co-bill. However, even though they’d never actually met before this tour, and their styles are quite different, they gracefully complemented one another. Co-bills (as opposed to a name act plus support) are an excellent idea but, and I’m sure it’s part of the strategy, they have a tendency to leave you wanting more from both acts and this was the case tonight. Continue reading “Jesse Terry + Emma Stevens, Cluny 2, Newcastle, 9th October 2019”

The Divine Comedy + Man & The Echo, Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin, 6th October 2019

Launching their tour at Dublin’s old Gas Board offices allowed an apt backdrop for the six-piece The Divine Comedy’s presentation of their latest symphony of songs ‘Office Politics’. The scene was set, much like the album cover, in an office with all the office equipment & technology you could imagine, and it made for a charming atmosphere in which Neil Hannon was able to enact his take on life at the office. By his own admission, not having ever worked in an office, Hannon wasn’t qualified to do this, and perhaps that was reflected by the odd ‘admin error’ that Alastair the Caretaker had to tend. On the whole, the audience was thoroughly entertained throughout by the exquisite band and Hannon’s remarkable observations & distinguished delivery. His unrivalled talent as a wordsmith knows no bounds. The subject matter of his writing is down to earth, real, and touches everybody. Then there is the music; melodious and lyrical, beautiful and brilliant. Continue reading “The Divine Comedy + Man & The Echo, Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin, 6th October 2019”

Al Stewart, The Stables, Wavendon, 1st October 2019

A still in wonderful voice Al Stewart returned to a packed Stables – one of the smaller venues on this current tour – this time bringing along a backing band with him – Chicago’s The Empty Pockets – as well as Marc Maccisso who was a supporting saxophone and flute player on several of the songs. This has been billed as the ‘Hits and Misses Tour‘, so along with some predictable appearances there were a number of songs that made the setlist just because Al Stewart likes them. It’s maybe a comment on the Hits side being somewhat obligatory that a rarer cut might get introduced with a “What’s next? Oh – I like that one.Continue reading “Al Stewart, The Stables, Wavendon, 1st October 2019”

Glasgow Americana Festival, 2nd – 6th October 2019

In Glasgow, as a damp and dreich winter beckons, October has at least one beacon lighting up the dark nights, the annual Glasgow Americana Festival which has been warming the hearts of music lovers for 13 years now. Spanning five days and six venues, this year’s festival offered 19 performers, an elegant balance of local and international names, some in up close and intimate quarters, others appearing to several hundred fans. The local Americana community is fiercely proud of this jamboree, witness the same faces who were at all of the shows AUK attended, presumably taking advantage of the keenly priced festival pass which allows entry to all shows. In addition, at several shows we encountered musical tourists, lured by some favourite acts with at least one of them expressing some jealousy at seeing the upcoming acts advertised to come in the following weeks. Continue reading “Glasgow Americana Festival, 2nd – 6th October 2019”