writer, performer, musician, wine drinker

Monthly Archives: October 2013

Review: Wildflowers/Denai Moore/Tom Odell, 02 Academy Leeds, 15th October 2013

As an aside, what is it with tea shops and compilations of early rock n’ roll? Our recent holiday near Whitby of necessity involved occasional visits to such places; and while the floral patterned cups and saucers didn’t exactly shake, rattle and roll to the sounds of Sun-era Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley and the rest, wherever we went there was an ever-present aural wallpaper of well-behaved guitars and thrumming double basses. I lost count of how many times the King urged me to love him tender.

Don’t get me wrong: every respect to the likes of Scotty Moore, but the irony of the original soundtrack of teenage rebellion being used to help push Lapsang Souchong or English Breakfast at a largely elderly clientele seemed lost on the proprietors. I thought perhaps the proximity of Goathland and other Heartbeat locations might be the excuse, but the apogee – or nadir, depending on your tolerance levels for this kind of stuff – occurred in a cafe in the Scottish Borders as we made our way home.

Staffed by the kind of gentle folk who would’ve run a mile at the sight of Marlon Brando swinging off his Harley in the car park, the decor, food and so-called ‘vintage’ curios on offer, coupled with the same unredeemed diet of 1950s music from Radio 2, lent the place the increasingly creepy air of a timeslip, culminating with a still-at-liberty Tony Blackburn introducing the next Tommy Steele number with: ‘this is 1957.’ At that point we lost our nerve and fled, convinced we were escaping an  alternate reality lifetime trapped in corduroys and Bri-Nylon.

By way of contrast, the gig your reviewer and his 15-year-old daughter went to Leeds for, from our holiday cottage in the moors, was a very modern affair. Through every moment of every performance, a veritable forest of iPhones and Samsung Galaxies waved aloft, just in case being there in the flesh wasn’t the whole point. They say if you can remember the Sixties you weren’t really there, man. In the Noughteens, if that’s what we’re calling them now, it really doesn’t matter how off your face you were, because the bozo next to you will have uploaded it all to Youtube by next Thursday.

Anyhoo; revenons a nos moutons. The gig was kicked off in fine fashion by Wildflowers, a newish outfit from the Bristol/Brighton area who looked – and more importantly sounded – gorgeous. Lead singer and co-songwriter Siddy Bennett’s headgear seemed to consist of the best part of some form of spatchcocked game bird, but that didn’t deter her from leading the line effectively and with no little charisma. Any support band who can get the crowd clapping along to their songs clearly know their chops; and the crowd here were visibly warmed up by the close of their set, laying a good platform for these guys to reach the next level of recognition in future.

Musically Wildflowers are fairly firmly in the rock mainstream; their own site quotes a review describing them as ‘the bastard children of Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles,’ which, depending on your musical tastes, might be a bit off-putting. A better reference point is that of the LA singer-songwriter LA Canyons scene; without sounding like anyone in particular, the focus is on solidly crafted compositions backed by arrangements that reach beyond the traditional soft-rock lead guitar/acoustic rhythm/bass/drums to encompass accordion, mandolin, and keyboards, in the combinations that each song needed.

Special mention though to the vocals – Bennett’s leads being more ably supplemented by the others, giving the choruses in particular, a rousing, soaring quality that really got the crowd properly warmed up. I will be ordering the EP.

Perhaps we hadn’t read the advance material properly, but we’d kind of expected Mr Odell himself after the roadies had shuffled away Wilflowers’ kit and caboodle from the stage. That expectation I think was shared amongst some at least of the crowd, which gave the second support act, Denai Moore, with a bit of hard work to win the crowd over when she appeared in the half dark and started tinkling the ivories.

In a strange counterpoint to another solo singer-songwriter we saw recently in Cupar, Jo Foster, Moore looked much more comfortable once she switched from keys to acoustic guitar and was joined by a drummer and keyboard player (for a review of the Cupar gig, go to the manicpopthrills review).

There was nothing particularly wrong with Moore’s set once she got going. However, I couldn’t help wondering if the two support acts should have been switched round, as the fuller sound of Wildflowers would have seemed the more natural progression to the main course of Tom Odell and band. This got me wondering about how support bands get chosen for bands at this level – are they just all mates with each other, share the same management company, or what? At least here it was clear Odell hadn’t done the musical equivalent of a bride putting her bridesmaids in a hitherto undiscovered shade of vermilion just so they don’t show her up on the big day – the support acts were in every sense worthy complements to the man himself.

As for Mr Odell, well. I almost don’t feel qualified to pass judgement on him. I wasn’t the only man over the age of twenty there – he’s no one-man boy band – but it’s clear that his core audience is, er, younger and more feminine than your reviewer. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed his performance – he’s perfected the art of passionate, piano-driven songs delivered with an enthusiasm that is really infectious. If he wasn’t having the time of his life up there, he’s one hell of an actor.

And I bet he could do one hell of a cover version of Jerry Lee.

PS: Tom Odell’s performance at Leeds on Youtube, here, and lots of other places…


Forthcoming Events

Preparations are going well for the Bloc show on 30th October at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, The Year of Unnatural Scotland. After an initially slow start the guys have been lobbing in some real smart bombs of material to me, and I now have the – actually rather pleasant – task of corralling it all together. Invite coming to a Facebook page near you (and Twitter, and goodness knows what all what) shortly.

I also wanted to share news of my  Andrew C Ferguson + friends show in November: Duality Tango The spiel goes something like this: Spoken word you can actually dance to

Using a mash up of handcrafted loops and live guitarists, one of Edinburgh’s best known spoken word performers creates a new set of soundscapes for his storytelling. Literary heft meets rock gig in a show that explores the duality of the soul with stories in turns funny, moving and surreal.

Ferguson has combined his words with music before (Kabarett, Unbound at the Book Festival, Illicit Ink) but this full length show is the culmination of a year’s preparations. Meet Spoken Word 2.0.

Is it rapscallion wordsmithery riffing on an A minor chord? We think so. Is it the long undead bastard twin lovechildren of punk rock and Fleetwood Mac squalling over a red Gretsch guitar? Quite possibly. Will you come out humming the tunes? Yes you will.

Hear the other side of the Jekyll and Hyde story; the new Old Testament Book of Bob; and those cheeky Utter Ballingristani nose flute players.

Duality Tango will feature Kelly Brooks (Gentlemen Prefer Blondie; Tribute to Venus Carmichael) and Mark Allan and Kenny Mackay (Isaac Brutal and the Trailer Trash Express; Shock and Awe).

Also special guests Gavin Inglis, and Dickson Telfer, bring their own unique combinations of spoken word and music to the party.

Reviews of Andrew C Ferguson:

‘Hilarious…’ Peter Ross, Scotland on Sunday (Literary Death Match)

‘Very cool…’ Kevin Gilday, Subcity Radio (Hyde’s Last Words)

For more info, go to

For demos of some of the tracks, go to

Duality Tango, Bongo Club, 66 Cowgate, Edinburgh EH1 1JX

14th November Doors 7.00 pm £7/£5 advance

….and we’re done

My total respect goes out to people like Mike Melville who regularly organise gigs. Cry of the Cave People, for those of you who weren’t there last night, was something of a success – despite some initial sound check problems, the whole thing came together, and by the end of the night the place was busy with happily drinking punters enjoying some stirring performances.

If I did one thing right it was the running order, with the acoustic, melodic sounds of Artisan and Norman Lamont giving way to the more rocked-up versions Hookers for Jesus and Isaac Brutal and the Trailer Trash Express had prepared for us. And not forgetting Ali Maloney’s astonishing spoken word version of Deep in the Woods!

Thanks again to all who came, participated, helped me with promotion, and generally was in the right place when I needed them to be. Gig promoter is not really my natural skill set, and I’m not planning to make it a regular occurrence. It was a two year gap between Dylan Uncovered and Cry of the Cave People, and 2015 sounds about right for the next one. Springsteen Rising, anyone?

Now to November, and the Andrew C Ferguson + friends show at the Bongo on the 14th, Duality Tango. Stay tuned: if you liked Cry of the Cave People, I think you’ll love this…

Cave Week Continues

As things build towards Cry of the Cave People on Saturday, another band interview: this time, with Dickson Telfer, writer and performer extraordinaire, but also of Artisan, a three-piece outfit from the Falkirk area –

What attracted you to the idea of a Nick Cave covers night?

I thought it’d suit our singer, Ronnie’s range and tone, plus there are so many good songs to choose from.

How did you come to choose your set? Was it your favourite Cave songs of all time, the ones you reckoned were most playable, or a mixture of both?

We’ve picked two fairly recent ones, from 2012’s Push the Sky Away, and a classic everyone will recognise. It was a combo of songs we liked, songs we thought we could do justice, and songs that made sure the contemporary stuff was acknowledged. Personally, I think Push the Sky Away is one of his and the Bad Seeds’ best.

Cave uses some pretty interesting instrumentation at times. Did that inspire you to change things up from your usual sound?

Not really. We’ve put our stamp on one of the tracks though, using a guitar sound Cave didn’t.

Any particular challenges in rehearsal? Were there any songs you had to leave on the cutting room floor?

Thankfully, the tracks we picked worked, so nothing was cut. Ronnie found some of Nick’s phrasing quite challenging at first, but he got there in the end.

Have you something special up your sleeve for your performance, or would you have to kill us after you tell us?

Yes, and yes.

Finally, do you have any particular Nick Cave anecdotes you’d like to share, either from one of his gigs or otherwise?

Believe it or not, I’ve never been to a Nick Cave gig before but he’s on my list of ‘bands I’ve always wanted to see but haven’t yet’, along with The Cure and Underworld. And he’s sold out at the Usher Hall next month too. Oh well, maybe next time…