Paul Liddell, a singer/songwriter from Sunderland, had been highly recommended so tonight sees my first visit to The Last Drop Inn. Well, my first visit for music, anyway – I have had many a pre- or post-gig pint in there before today.
The first thing I noticed, apart from Shaun, my gig-buddy for the night, was the unusually large (for an acoustic act) pedal rig. After a brief chat with the man himself (Shaun introducing me as “a fellow music nut”, a compliment I think…) we settled down for the performance.
Paul opened with what he described as a “quiet one”, a cover of Don McLean’s Vincent and followed it with two of his own – Ghost Car, a livelier song about driving late at night, waiting for the caffeine to kick in while the white lines on the road all blur into one and Goodbye Mr Green, which was about chance encounters with an old school friend. The rhythm seemed to be coming from the pedal rig and there was the first noticeable (to me) use of loops. Most of the small audience seemed to know Paul (and vice versa) and, when he asked whether we wanted the next song to be, “one you’ve heard, or one of mine,” the consensus was one of his. Although I suspect that most people probably knew it as well. Too Much Talk turned out to be a simple guitar/quiet vocals track about not being able to escape background noise such as Facebook.
Another cover followed, this time it was Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, played in the key of F, “because that’s the only key I can play the trumpet in”. Yes, there was a trumpet. Before he started the song, Paul’s feet danced over the pedals to get the right guitar sound. There seemed to be a lot of effects on his vocals and he used the guitar’s sound box to provide percussion, using loops to build up the song and turning something familiar into something quite unusual. His own Game Show Host featured the most intricate and interesting guitar work so far, then two more covers completed the first half of the set – I hadn’t heard Glycerin by Bush before but his version of Springsteen’s The Ghost Of Tom Joad, with the echo effects on the vocals adding to rather than detracting from the song and the acoustic guitar being made to sound like an electric one, made for a great way to end this section.
Another unusual cover opened the second half. This time it was Cherry Ghost’s comparatively miserable Dead Man’s Suit. By the time he started his own A Quiet Kind Of Madness, the opening to which briefly reminded me of Wonderwall, a few more people had joined the audience and the applause was getting louder and warmer, with the punters in the bar area joining in. Musically, there seemed to be a stripped-back feel to The Hollies’ He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother, but the vocals were every bit as impassioned as the song deserved. Switching back to his own material, we got Kill-o-gram, an angry rant against such things as energy companies and the lack of morals on TV which was all the more powerful because of the lack of guitar effects. At the end of Electricity Paul apologised for the last two songs being of a miserable nature and then played the much livelier Brighter Lights. Number Two, a song about falling out with an old friend, resonated with me as my eleven-year-old daughter seems to be constantly doing just that.
With last orders having been called at the bar, the evening seemed to be drawing to a close. A man wandered in from the street, apparently doing a double-take before declaring that he had seen Paul play at the Galtres Festival the previous weekend. He took a seat and had to be reminded to get himself a beer before the final song of the set. Hurricanes saw the biggest use of pedals and loops in the second half of the evening, building the song and the set to nice climax.
I’m always intrigued by the use of loops and the way some people use their guitars to provide percussion effects and afterwards, while purchasing a CD, I was cheeky enough to ask Paul whether any of his set had been recorded. He assured me it wasn’t and that all the percussion sounds are picked up by a small microphone in the body of the guitar. It was nice to know that no “trickery” was involved.
Most of the tracks I played tonight are available (from different gigs) on YouTube and Paul has just released his latest single – Ends Of The Earth – which, like the rest of his output is available at http://paulliddell.bandcamp.com/ or from iTunes.