My wife was hosting a “Jamie At Home” party tonight. If there’s one thing potentially more scary than Jamie Oliver actually turning up at your home, it’s the thought of that home being invaded by a group of wine-sipping women ogling over cookware. I had to leave the house, no matter what.
Tonight was also one of those rare nights when the group couldn’t agree on a venue. With three plans circulating, one of us dropped out (saving his pass for another night), Andy and Roj headed off to Fibbers (for a review, click here – one’s bound to turn up soon) and I took my chances at the Duchess.
Now, when I listen to music (live or recorded) I’m generally only looking for one thing. To be entertained. Deep and meaningful lyrics are OK, but generally pass me by. Technical excellence I can spot, but don’t know enough about that side of music to be able to comment on it (and, being honest, even average-to-good music can be entertaining). Usually, as long as an act is at least mildly entertaining, I’m happy.
Davie Janeway did not make me happy. Playing to a practically non-existent audience, Davie is a man-and-guitar act. A guitar that he plays in possibly the most unsubtle manner I have ever come across. I’m afraid I couldn’t make out any of the lyrics (or most of the introductions) but, as ever, that could be down to my aging ears as much as a poor performance or bad acoustics. The one introduction I did manage to understand – “This song is about the best blunt instrument to murder somebody with. It’s called Tyre Iron” – kind of sets the scene for the sort of act Mr Janeway is. This was the musical equivalent of the Angry Young Man, just without the shouting. Not my cup of tea at all.
Thankfully, next to take to the stage was Aimie J Ryan, a singer/songwriter from York who we have seen once before, apparently before I started blogging as I can’t find a past entry. That time was at Fibbers and, it not yet being time for the headline act, we were still in our usual position at the back. Since then Aimie has released an EP (Count To Ten) and is working on an album. Tonight’s performance was much more assured than I remember the first one being and I found myself moving closer to the stage and away from the pillar I had been leaning against. Again, just performer and guitar (this time acoustic), but with much more subtlety and elegance in both the playing and the vocals. Starting with a couple of melancholy, possibly even despressing, numbers Don’t Make Friends With Your Hangman and Razorblade (both from the EP) the set gradually got more upbeat. Aimie’s voice is fantastic, reminding me at times of Tracy Chapman, and she plays the guitar really well. At this point, the first act was a fading memory and I was starting to have a good time. So was Aimie who was playing the Duchess for the first time (I thought she’d played there before but I think that gig was cancelled) and liked it because she wasn’t sweating. Niiiice…
I was so impressed that I bought a copy of Aimie’s EP which, I am happy to say, contains four very good songs. These are full-band (bass, drum and piano alongside guitar) versions with a number of guest musicians including Angela Gordon playing flute on two songs. I know it’s not surprising coming from me, but I’ll be looking out for the album.
Finally, another musical shot in the dark, a band I only knew from the write-up on the Duchess’s whats on listing. Ezio, in this format are a duo – Ezio Lunedei (a Tom Conti lookalike) on acoustic guitar and vocals and Mark ‘Booga’ Fowell (a mountain lookalike) on acoustic and electric guitar. I don’t like using direct quotes on this blog but Kenyan-born Booga really is “next to two metres high and nearly that wide”. He’s a giant of a man who really shouldn’t be able to play guitar as well as he does.
Ezio writes heart-rending ballads and more light-hearted, bordering on pop, songs. There may have been a set list but members of the audience could text the band with requests, some of which were performed. Some audience members also tried requesting without text, which provoked some humorous responses from the stage – “Take Me Away” sang one wag. “I’d pay good money for that” came the response. In fact, tonight reminded me of the Nick Harper gig I attended at Easter. Both were laid back, funny and contained some of the best acoustic (folk) rock you are likely to come across.
Ezio and Booga are not a normal duet. The majority of the work is done by the former, with the latter adding guitar accompaniment to a growing degree as the act goes on and in a variety of styles including, but not limited to, blues, rock and something sounding a lot like Spanish to me. At times the music coming from the two guitars didn’t even sound as though it was for the same song, but it always worked together, producing a sound unlike anything I can remember having heard before. While there were no actual covers, lyrics by Van Morrison (Tupelo Honey) and The Beach Boys (Fun Fun Fun) were heard during the set.
Ezio obviously have a hard-core following. Even in tonight’s relatively small audience, I couldn’t help feeling like the one person at a party who didn’t know the other guests – not because the rest of the audience knew each other, but because most of them recognised the songs from pretty much the first chord. After about and hour, the band left the stage and I had to admit that this was a party I was glad I had been invited to. I was even more pleased when they returned for a three song encore. So pleased that yet another CD – Live at the Shepherds Bush Empire – made it into my burgeoning collection.
After the gig, I made my way to the Roman Bath to meet up with Andy and Roj and catch the end of DSQ’s set. Another covers band but a very popular one – I was made to wait outside for a few minutes before entering a very crowded pub. The range of songs was slightly different to our normal fare and included Animal (Def Leppard), Brown-Eyed Girl (Van Morisson), Born to be Wild (Steppenwolf) and Jump (Van Halen) along with songs by the Bee Gees and Wild Cherry (a bit too much funk for Andy who was, nevertheless, dancing along…) Both the lead singer and keyboard player looked familiar and, after some hard thinking, the former was identified as the lead singer of Flight from A Night For Heroes a few weeks ago. I’m not certain, but I think that the latter played keyboards for Free Spirit on the same night.