I arrived at the Victoria Vaults a bit later than planned and found the place nearly empty and Lee Parry, the invited support act, just starting. Apparently it had been his graduation day, which begs the question of why he wasn’t out getting drunk and celebrating. Another of York’s seeming endless supply of acoustic guitar acts, Lee managed to rise above some of the others by combining a self-effacing (“I always feel that I’m imposing on people if I play too many of my own songs”), bordering on shy, demeanour with an audience-charming smile and a great voice to give an engaging performance. With barely a glance at the audience he played a short set of just seven songs, two of which were covers – John Martyn’s May You Never, which he learned after seeing it performed on The Old Grey Whistle Test (I’m assuming on a repeat – he didn’t look old enough to have seen the original) and an unusually heartfelt and emotional version of I Heard It Through The Grapevine. His own songs were steeped in real life experiences, with No Holy Man being inspired by a Swedish friend who “found religion and a girlfriend” and She Wants To Get Away being about a girl who wants to leave Birmingham. The latter featured guitar work that was a bit too “plinky” for me. Most of the other songs were based around some beautifully simplistic guitar, with one that I didn’t catch the title of being a bit more complex and Let Me Know being, apparently, the only one of his own songs in which he employs a finger-picking style. Overall, it was a nice mixture of styles and I have to agree with the person who said something along the lines of, “But they’re good” to the comment about him imposing on the audience with his own songs.
It’s just over a year since we stumbled across Dream Of Apollo and I have kind of formed that opinion that they are one of York’s best kept musical secrets. All but one of the times I’ve seen them perform has been in various pubs (although they have played at “proper” venues and, indeed, completed a mini European tour as well) with most of the attentive audiences seemingly people they know. Which is a shame as this genre-defying band are superb and it has been a genuine joy both seeing them perform and, in a small way, getting to know the various members. It was a bit of s shock, therefore, that a few days before tonight’s gig was due to take place the Facebook event was changed to reflect it being a “farewell” gig, although it wasn’t clear whether it was farewell to the band or to vocalist and songwriter Vicki who is taking a career move to London.
It wasn’t a surprise, however, that the gig turned out to be slightly more emotional than other times they have performed. Moments of light-heartedness, with Vicki mistaking Winston’s, “Count me in” for him asking if she needed counselling (“I’m a bit sad, but I’m OK…”) and near hilarity when Winston realised exactly what was making his guitar sound “wrong” served to brighten the mood but didn’t detract from the sadness that was evident in both Vicki’s performance, during which at times the emotions seemed to be coming from her in waves, and while we were chatting during the break. It might have just been my perception but it seemed as though the rest of the band were giving her a bit more space, making her a bit more prominent in some of the songs, while still maintaining the full band sound. Not that the rest took a complete back seat – Jamie seemed particularly playful on drums tonight and Winston certainly rocked up the introduction to Children Of The City more than usual (at least as far as I remember…) There was a lovely beguiling jam opening to the second half of the set, serving both to show how good the musicianship is and giving people time to finish their conversations before the band eventually launched into the relatively new All For You but it was the lyrics to Someday, a song I’ve heard many times, that suddenly took on a new meaning tonight – “You came into my life and took my breath away” being an almost perfect description of how we felt the first time we saw the band perform and, “Like a dream you fade away”, expressing what was, potentially, happening to the band from a fan’s point of view. If only Vicki’s almost plaintive, “Don’t let me go” meant that the band and fans had a choice.
Hopefully, this isn’t the end of the Dream. The band are hoping to carry on, with Vicki trying to get them some gigs in London and the potential that she may get a job at least partly based in York. Work on their album is also set to continue, which should help venues get an idea of their sound, which really isn’t easy to pin down. From my own point of view, I hope that they manage to, at very least, get together once in a while, in York, just so that I can see them again. I’m selfish that way. It would be even better if their plans came to fruition and, wherever they play, they get the bigger audiences that they undoubtedly deserve.