Live Review: Bennett & Wilson + Dropkick, Glasgow Americana Festival @Room 2, Glasgow – 6th October 2023

Nestled midway within this year’s Glasgow Americana Festival’s line up was a rather surprising billing, Bennett & Wilson, two thirds of the trailblazing Bennett Wilson & Poole whose incendiary gig at the festival back in 2019 is by now legend. This was pretty much a one off show as the full trio have no tours in sight at the moment and, sadly, Tony Poole, the Rickenbacker-clad lynchpin of the band was unable to join his erstwhile compadres on this occasion. Still a glass more than half full is better than an empty one and it was an eager crowd who braved Glasgow’s driving rain to see what Robin Bennett and Danny George Wilson, along with Joe Bennett and Finn Kenny were bringing to the table tonight.

What we were treated to was akin to a potted history of Bennett and Wilson’s past adventures, singularly and in tandem. The pair have a long history behind them dating back to their respective days in Goldrush and Grand Drive, both pioneers in the then nascent world of UK Americana, along with shared time in the early adventures of Danny & The Champions Of The World. As such, tonight’s show featured songs from all three bands along with numbers from Bennett’s Dreaming Spires and, of course, a smattering of Bennett Wilson Poole.

Such a polymorphous set list required the band to reassemble themselves on several occasions, swapping instruments (who knew that Danny Wilson was quite the wizard on electric guitar and can also play a mean bass) and rejigging the stage set up. Sitting serenely behind all of this was Kenny, content to remain on the drummer’s stool (and even getting a fag break when the band went all acoustic). The Bennett’s even brought along a flute and trumpet to add to the myriad delights on show.

They kicked off with a bang with several Bennett Wilson Poole numbers. First off was the jangled pop of ‘I Saw Love’, the opening song on the latest Bennett Wilson Poole album which, like several others on the album channels George Harrison’s Rickenbacker contributions to The Beatles. This was perfect harmonised pop music perfectly played but it was then eclipsed  as they delved into the meatier psychedelia of ‘Ask Me Anything’ which was then topped by the joyous flight that was ‘Soon Enough’, fuelled by Robin Bennett’s trippy Byrds’ like 12 string miles high solo. The chummier side of Bennett Wilson Poole, albeit with great harmonies and chunky guitars, then appeared as they sang ‘Waiting For The Waves To Break’, ‘Wilson’s General Store’ and ‘Cry At The Movies’, the latter featuring Robin Bennett on telecaster and ripping out a fine solo.

Next up was the history lesson as they delved into their past, illuminating the songs with a wealth of shared tales. First up was Goldrush’s ‘Same Picture’, a song which scratched the pop charts back then  (with Robin and Joe arguing if it peaked at number 63 or 64) and then on to a Grand Drive song from their inception in 1997. Grand Drive reappeared when the band launched into what was Grand Drive’s first release, ‘Tell It Like It Is’, with Wilson strapping on a telecaster and playing a quite brilliant corkscrewed solo. Robin Bennett then took over as the band delivered a killer version of The Dreaming Spires’ ode to the faded glories of Hollywood on ‘Easy Rider’, sounding as if they were a much more jaded version of LA’s fabled canyon players before notching the song up in an excellent wigged out finale. The early days of Danny and his Champs then followed up as they revisited the first album on ‘Red Tree Song’ with Robin Bennett on flute and Joe Bennett on trumpet adding a wonderfully melancholic mood to the song.

Drawing to a close we were back to the Bennett Wilson Poole catalogue as Wilson introduced “our biggest video,” and sang ‘Funny Guys’ with the band again channelling The Byrds and The Beatles with Robin Bennett back on the 12-string Rickenbacker. Flying high, they soared through ‘Not Forgetting’ and ended with a double whammy starting with their anthem to the ‘60s which is ‘I Want To Love You (But I Can’t Right Now)’ which then flowed into ‘Ready To Serve’ with Robin Bennett riding a wave based on George Harrison’s ‘Ticket To Ride’ riff. A great end to a show which, unless they decide to do it again, might be something of a one-off trip. A huge thanks here to Glasgow Americana for the opportunity to see this excellent show.

It was certainly a night of two-thirds as the support act Dropkick also appeared as a duo instead of their current three-piece lineup. Sporting acoustic guitars Andrew Taylor and Al Shields did a grand job of delivering the band’s usual jangled pop sound without any electrical accoutrements as they harmonised excellently while Taylor’s acoustic 12-string guitar sounded quite excellent. Their set list cherry picked from their extensive back catalogue, opening with ‘Out Of Tune’ from their 2018 release ‘Longwave’. More up-to-date was ‘Telephone’ from their latest release ‘The Wireless Revolution’ along with a song which Taylor says he had pestered Shields to write (“he needs to pull his weight!“) as they sang ‘The Other Side’, a song which showed that Shields, a fine solo artist in his own right, is quite comfortably ensconced within Dropkick.

While one might associate the jangled power pop of Dropkick with sunnier climes, ‘It’s Still Raining’ was an appropriate enough song for this dreich Glasgow night and it allowed one to ponder why Dropkick are not as lauded as some of their power pop peers as Taylor sang this minor masterpiece. Equally as good was ‘Isolation’, a song from Taylor’s occasional side project, The Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness. A great little set and one which certainly whetted the appetite for Dropkick’s forthcoming full band tour which includes Edinburgh and Glasgow dates in November.

About Paul Kerr 444 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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