Friday, 9 May 2008

Giro Junkie/Thom Price/Andrew Hall/M S Thomason @ The Glebe, Stoke. May 8th.

Review by Steve Dean

Photo by Leo Mazzocchio

It was good to see the BBC Subculture show’s Matt and Dave at the Glebe this evening. All four acoustic guitarists were being recorded to hopefully be played on next week’s Thursday broadcast between 7 and 9pm. From what I heard this evening, it promises to be a very good indeed.

Smiling as he took the stage, Giro Junkie, alias Rich Bloor, began with a song actually about a ‘Giro Junkie’; and very entertaining it was too. He has a captivatingly gritty voice which compliments his meaningful songs perfectly. Playing his guitar left-handed with the strings upside-down, he accompanies himself extremely well and a few listenings to the CD he very kindly gave me show that he is capable of some strong songwriting. His second number ‘Confiscate the Hippies’ is a fine example of his talent and is featured with the backing of a small band on his recording, which gives the song yet another dimension. The pained vocals applied to his third number ‘Novemtree’ brought the full force of the lyrics through and his version of Tom Waits’ ‘The Heart of Saturday Night’ did the song very fair justice. Breaking a string during the number, he nonetheless got through his last song, ‘Slavery was never Abolished’, a statement I’m inclined to agree with, admirably well to finish his act to loud and well-deserved applause. A great opener to the evening.

In a different style altogether, the next up, Thom Davies, at other times the voice of band 'iye', proved himself just as able. Demonstrating some nice picking, he sung his emotion-packed songs with much depth of feeling; his raw passion being almost tangible. His songs have a kind of hypnotic dreaminess and his opening number ‘Fire Consume’ was a fine example. I’ve listened to this again on his myspace profile and as statements from the heart go, they don’t come much finer. I was unable to catch the titles of the rest of the songs in his act and he was gone before I got a chance to ask him, but it is enough to say that all of his material has a haunting quality, at times bordering on the entrancing. He is very good indeed. At the end of his third song, he was forced to ask a few members of the audience to stop talking, as they had annoyingly been loudly doing so throughout the number, and chat outside, if they must. He was right to voice his disapproval; the atmosphere he managed to create was being ruined in the same way such talk would be deemed offensive during a sermon in a church. I read that he is a preacher’s son. He knows of such things.

Our third man, Andrew Hall, is much more commercial in his approach, in both his songwriting and presentation. Playing for much longer than the previous two, his songs tend to contain more conventional chordwork than the guitarists already seen and although he has an obvious talent, he didn’t grab me in the same way. That isn’t to say he isn’t good at what he does though. As I said, his songs have a general commercialism that the others lack, although not sorely, and that fact alone should afford him some far-ranging success. On listening to the songs on his myspace profile, his opening song ‘Frontline’, amongst others, benefits from the addition of other instruments and on the whole, his songs, to me anyway, would have more appeal if they were played live with this extra backing. He has a fine melodic voice and there is no reason at all why he shouldn’t do very well in the direction he is heading. He comes across as a likeable chap and I wish him every prosperity. He has obviously worked very hard.

Another hard worker, headliner M S Thomason specialises in atmospheric haunting songs of a certain delicacy. He remarked to me on his arrival that it made a change to be standing on a stage that didn’t contain the banks of amplifiers, etc belonging to the bands he usually finds himself on the bill with. Thinking further along those lines, his act would benefit from some subtle stage lighting, but then again we can’t have everything, not at this stage anyway; and at this stage, I doubt he will remain. With the right guidance he will go very far indeed. Casting aside obvious comparisons to the likes of Leonard Cohen, he has talent in abundance and his songs of life and lost love are aglow with melancholy beauty. As a guitarist, he has a stylish way of picking that accentuates the depth of his thoughtful lyrics. His playlist including gems such as ‘New York’, ‘The Bastard Who Stole my Love’ and ‘Bloody Mess’, he demonstrated why he is a firm favourite of Subculture’s Dave and Matt, on whose show he is often played and indeed will be featured next week. Closing the evening to much appreciation from an impressed audience, he was a fitting end to a fine night.

If I had one, I’d tip my hat to the Glebe for their ongoing support for all things musical. “Well done”, I think, is all I need to say.

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