I’m going to start this post with a caveat – due to a) being at a beer festival during the afternoon before this gig and b) forgetting to write it up until over six weeks afterwards (I blame the onset of the Olympics, during which I barely moved from in front of the TV, immediately followed by a two week holiday) my memories of the event aren’t quite as sharp as when I normally do these reviews. However, as this blog is primarily a personal record of who I have seen perform rather than any serious attempt at music journalism, I’m going to give it a go anyway.
Despite York being a relatively small city, with small music venues, every so often an advertised act will catch my eye in an “I can’t believe he/she/they are playing York” way. Even more rarely, said acts will also stir an “I’ve got to be there” feeling. Tonight was one such and, despite the fact that I knew I was probably opening myself up to more than a fair amount of abuse and mickey-taking, there was little chance of me missing this gig.
Support tonight came from Nico Cara who plays acoustic guitar and sings in a somewhat strange style – staccato, with every few syllables highly pitched. He seemed more than a little nervous, mumbling through the introductions to his four songs and the set came to an abrupt end just when I noted that he appeared to be growing in confidence. I picked up that one song was about suffering from writer’s block but that’s about all. His guitar playing varied from minimal to something much deeper but I’m afraid that, on this performance, the young lad didn’t do too much for me.
Maybe things would improve with Pony And Trap, a post-punk/alternative duo consisting of guitarist Tom Meyer and singer/percussionist Sally Rafferty, resplendent tonight in sparkly top and blue-dyed hair. The vocals are described as distinctive. I would say more “quirky” and the first song, John Green I think, seemed to consist less of lyrics than just the title repeated over and over with a few other words thrown in every so often. Tom switched between acoustic and electric guitars and at least one song had percussion added by a backing track. Unfortunately, like the first act, they did nothing for me. This time, however, it was more due to the fact that I just don’t get on with this type of music. Too quirky for my tastes, I’m afraid.
Jonathan Powell was an impromptu third support act, playing just three songs because the evening was running fast (maybe due to Nico’s rather short, abrupt set?) Charlotte Church’s guitarist, musical partner and, perhaps, boyfriend played acoustic guitar and his vocals seemed a lot more natural that the previous acts, although his first song was difficult to hear above the sound of the crowd who were, perhaps, getting a bit impatient by now. Upping the power slightly on the remaining songs he showed how good support acts can be and provided a pleasant, unbilled surprise.
After a short break Powell and the rest of the band took to the stage. As did Charlotte Church, with a wide smile and without any hint of showboating, shaggy-cut blonde hair giving the impression that she is slowly morphing into Debbie Harry. Playing a tour of small venues to promote her latest musical reinvention, brought immediately to the fore by the big drum and indie-guitar sound of the opening song, the former “voice of an angel” and tabloid-hounded teenage “hell raiser” (although, out of the spotlight, are many teenagers that different?) seemed genuinely pleased to be performing in front of a small but definitely appreciative audience. Indulging in medicinal honey between songs Charlotte and band performed a ten song set, none of which I remember hearing before (although, admittedly, I only have the pop of 2005’s Tissues and Issues in my CD collection) and many of which have been written as a result of recent events – including her battles with the press and subsequent testimony at the Leveson Enquiry – and her apparent dislike of the mainstream as she hinted that the “suits in the music industry have shit for ears”. Sadly, although I know that I enjoyed her performance on the night, nothing has remained stuck with me musically (except for the opening of one song which I found memorable more for the annoying use of a loop to repeat an almost-shouted “Eh, eh, eh” than anything else). There wasn’t anything wrong with the performance and, it has to be said, Charlotte gave a nicely varied vocal performance and the songs themselves ranged from indie rock to disco. On the night I noted that Come To Me was the best song of the set, but I can’t remember any of it now. If there had been an album available on the night I would almost certainly have bought it but the only mention of a new release was the EP One. Although I wouldn’t have liked to miss this gig, I find that it has faded all to quickly from my mind, in a musical sense anyway. After all, that genuine smile and the fact that Charlotte doesn’t do encores because she “feels like a twat” (imagine it being said in a Welsh accent…) are going to be hard to forget.