Despite my protestations that I no longer travel to gigs, tonight was the third time this year that I attended a venue outside of York. While the other two were a festival (albeit indoors, away from any mud) and the farewell tour of one of the biggest rock-stars ever, this one was to see a band actually from York, simply because I hadn’t been able to see them the previous week when they played their hometown. It is a mark of how much that they are liked by our little gig-going group that I was accompanied by two friends who had also been to that gig.
And so we found ourselves, for the first time in Harrogate’s Blues Bar, a well-respected venue which, it turned out, was a fair bit smaller than any of us were expecting. Small it may be, but it is a very nice venue. Bands play on a stage in the window which, if it were daylight, would give them a backdrop of the town’s famous Stray. Being designated driver for the evening, I couldn’t do justice to the choice of real ales but it was nice to see an audience that, for the most part, were there to appreciate the music as much as the beer. A discussion between the three of us as to how much band would get paid for playing the venue was followed by a bit of a surprise when the landlord (I assume) wandered around the audience with an ice bucket, collecting donations for the band. As far as I could see, everybody dropped something into the bucket, with the landlord even chasing down those who had nipped outside for a smoke. Apparently Sundays see three bands playing the venue at different times of the day. Dream Of Apollo were filling the tea-time/early evening slot and, while the bar wasn’t full, there was a decent enough number in for their performance.
One of the band members has told me that he fears for the day that I say, “I’ve gone off them. They used to be good.” On the basis of this performance, that day is still a long way. off. With just over one album’s worth of original material, and some of those songs not fitting the more acoustic format of tonight’s set (and presumably the rest of the week-long tour the band were embarking on) it might have been that the set-list would begin to get a bit stale, but there were to be a few surprises.
The sensual Home, intriguing Children Of The City and deceptively dark Anatole started things off in a lively fashion, before a cover of Eleanor Rigby provided the first of those surprises, with Vicki and Winston’s dual vocals doing more than justice to the original – I’m not a big fan of the Beatles, so I’m comfortable saying that – even if Winston did manage to repeat one verse. Few bands manage a perfect performance and it’s the way they get over the mistakes that can make the difference. In this case, it was with a lot of laughter at the end of the song. Dream Of Apollo seem to enjoy performing as much as I enjoy watching them. Too Lost, Too Late, sounding superb in acoustic form, was followed by a song I didn’t recognise and only found out afterwards was a new one, written specially for an American contributor to the band’s Pledge campaign for their debut album, Alpha. I don’t remember too much about it, apart from the fact that I was so bewitched by it and by Sarah’s haunting cello fade-out that I didn’t think to ask what the title was. From what I remember of the lyrics, it may have been Pieces, but Dream Of Apollo have a habit of not always naming their songs in obvious fashion. The band’s regular, genre-spanning cover versions of Depeche Mode’s In A Manner Of Speaking and Dolly Parton’s Jolene sandwiched their own was followed by the lovely Someday before Vicki brought the first half of the set to a close with her solo version of Gregory and the Hawk’s Boats And Birds.
The second half started with All For You, which was dedicated to Sarah’s Dad as it is his favourite. I have to say he has good taste as the song is rapidly becoming one of my own favourites from the album. Hold Me stepped up the pace before another new cover, this time of Tracy Chapman’s For My Lover, featuring very strong and emotive vocals from Vicki. Regrets Of The Devil was marred slightly by one table of audience members seemingly forgetting that there was a band on and not only loudly discussing eating oysters during the song but forgetting to lower the volume when the music finished. I don’t know exactly what the band thought, but the looks that passed between them seemed to be more of amusement than annoyance. Two more covers – Iris (The Goo Goo Dolls) and Put Your Loving Arms Around Me (Billie Ray Martin, I think…) – were followed by the brilliant Sandman. Then, as the rest of the band got ready, a few notes played by Winston were recognised by the audience as being from Folsom Prison Blues and an audience who had, so far, been appreciative turned into one that was clapping, stomping and singing along as the set drew to a close. It was almost a shame that none of the original songs got such a good reception although, as Rhys commented afterwards, “Johnny Cash always gets them going.” An encore of The Beatles’ Come Together brought another impressive and enjoyable performance to a close.
Dream Of Apollo’s tour, marred only by a venue/promoter mix-up causing one gig to be cancelled, had been completed by the time I got time to write this and there are no planned gigs that I am aware of. Alpha can, however, be heard on and bought from their Bandcamp site.