“I’m glad there’s a crush barrier,” said Nick Hall as he and Michelle Plum (formerly of Chumbawamba) took to the stage as Plumhall. I assume he was referring to the, at the time, disappointingly small crowd, rather than a worry that those leaning against the barrier might try to storm the stage, but you never know. Joined tonight by Charlie Daykin on keyboards, Plumhall played an entertaining mix of acoustic songs with nice harmonies both vocally and from their guitars, with the keyboards augmenting the sound superbly. They were also one of the most engaging support bands we’ve seen, entertaining the audience not just with their music but with between song banter – starting a competition to find out who had travelled furthest to get to tonight’s gig, as well as inviting us to come up ideas for their back-up plan of “dual tribute bands” (to which we added Barry Whitesnake and Guns and Rose Royce). The nine-song set was mostly original but also contained two covers – Silence Can Be Gold (Waking The Witch, another of Michelle’s previous bands) and Won’t Give In (The Finn Brothers). My favourites of the set were one that I didn’t catch the title of but which saw Michelle playing solo guitar with Nick providing backing vocals during the second half and Nick’s own, powerful (almost angry) Never Forget My Name, written during a recent visit to South Africa where he came across a museum of slavery. Plumhall next play York during the York 800 Mor Music Festival on 7th of July.
…and, finally, it’s here. The launch gig for Stolen Earth’s debut album – A Far Cry From Home – and, after, a number of support slots over the last few months, a chance to see them headline again on a bigger stage. In fact, one of the most noticeable things was the amount of room the band had given that they weren’t crammed in between other equipment, giving those not restricted by their own instruments more freedom to roam. Being the album launch, the band played every song from it (nearly in order, with just Tuscany Sun and Into The Virgin Snow being reversed), but opened with one track that didn’t make the album – I Live, if I recall correctly – and also included Clear, written by Paul Teasdale for Breathing Space’s last album. There was also the first performance of a new song, tonight performed without the rhythm section, with Adam on acoustic guitar and John providing some very subtle keyboards and vocals from Heidi and Adam, it came across as a little bit folky with a hint of Fleetwood Mac. Apparently it is a work in progress and may evolve into something more but, as it is now, it’s quite lovely.
The overall performance was as strong as ever. As usual both Adam and John played with a calmness that belies their skill, although John’s keyboards are still a little lost in the mix (it’s a pleasure to hear them properly on the album, which has been produced superbly and has a much cleaner and clearer sound than the live performances). Paul and Barry work hard as rhythm section – Paul, in particular, had a nice bass section, which I don’t remember hearing before, in the middle of the set-opener. Heidi’s vocals came across a lot better tonight (which might be down to me having heard the album a few times prior to the gig and, therefore, knowing the lyrics better) and she survived a head/microphone clash after a late grab for a floor-based plectrum with dignity and, apparently, confidence intact. The audience had swelled from the beginning of the evening as well and, it is perhaps testament to the band that some of that audience had travelled so far for this gig – I know from personal experience just what a trek it is from Norfolk and if it was true that one person had come up from Penzance then he has my admiration… Perhaps strangely for an album launch gig, the question of “who’s got the album?” from the stage was greeted with a near-universal affirmative. But, then it was funded by those who pre-ordered and, I would guess, a lot of the audience will have been hardcore fans, especially given that this was a hometown gig. Stolen Earth take to the road over the next few weeks, with a mini-tour taking in Hartlepool (last night, as I type), Norwich, Wakefield, Bilston and culminating in a performance on the main stage at the Cambridge Rock Festival. My guess is that they’ll pick up a number of new fans along the way.