Just 4 months since they last appeared in a small Wiltshire town, Our Man In the Field are back as guests of Malmesbury Live Arts, Acoustic Sessions. And so much has changed in that short time. The 5-piece band is the same, but there is a new confidence in the playing and especially in the singing of frontman Alex Ellis himself.
On the first gig leading up to an album launch show in November you might have expected a little hesitancy from the band but not tonight. A couple of older songs got the evening started with ‘Thin (I Use To Be Bullet Proof)’ the pick. Henry Senior is surely one of the best instrumentalists in the country just now and his Dobro on ‘Thin’ mixed beautifully with Maddy Cundall’s cello, as it did all evening. The slightly “different” sound this combination brings to the band is one of its strengths, along with a rhythm section who seem locked together telepathically. The first of the songs due to be released on new album ‘Gold On the Horizon’ was ‘Go Easy’. This has already evolved from the version played at Cricklade in June, with Eva’s bass line having developed a swing that drives the rest of the band through the song. Another set highlight was ‘Silver Linings’ which provides the new album with its title, through one of the key lines in the lyrics. The end of the main set came with current single ‘How Long’, which may be his best song to date.
At one point Ellis asked if his stories about the inspiration behind the songs ever got dull. Having related the tale behind ‘Feel Good’, a story of a manager who spent away the band’s tour proceeds, the answer is a definite no. Alex Ellis has found the knack of winning over audiences. As he suggested, tonight’s audience were far from Our Man In The Field loyalists, merely borrowed from the organisers. By mid-way through the set there were plenty of converts, drawn in by Ellis’s easy way with a crowd.
The encore featured another new song, based on Camus’ ‘L’Etranger’. The delicate groove of this lovely tune meant that they weren’t getting away with just one encore. After some discussion they closed with ‘The Road’, a song destined to be a bonus track on the digital edition of the album, and another startlingly good tune.
Alex Ellis, and his band, have truly hit their stride as a live act. On suggesting to Henry Senior afterwards that this was the best show I had heard from them, he agreed that it had been a strong performance, which hints that the band themselves are realising just how good they are, and how great the material they are playing is.
Support came from Catalonia, by way of Chippenham from singer songwriter Guillem Mitchel. His songs played on a mix of regular and Weissenborn guitars went over well, and he also gained himself some new fans on the night.