It’s happened! I’ve been to a gig that has inspired me to come out of retirement, if only as a one-off. I didn’t know at the time so, with no notes taken on the night, what follows may be a little scant on detail (some may say less wordy) and I’m going to break my own cardinal rule and only write about the headline act.
It had been a long time – too long a time – since I had seen any formation of Boss Caine play live. The last time was towards the end of 2016, supporting the Christians. According to my gigs list, the last time I saw them as a headline act was way back in 2014, at the Basement. It’s strange, to me, that an act that I can genuinely say I love, and one that was such a staple of my gig-going for a while, had dropped off my radar so fully. But there was no way I was missing tonight’s gig – full band run-through of the latest album, the very long-awaited Loved By Trouble, Troubled By Love.
It says a lot about main-man Daniel Lucas, who pulls talented musicians into the Boss Caine collective, that The Crescent played host to a very sizable audience which, along with music-lovers like myself, included a cross-section of the Who’s Who of the York music scene, as well as friends of the man who had travelled the length and breadth of the country – some without telling him they were coming – to see him play tonight. It also says a lot about him that he seemed very much blown away by the support. Increasingly buzzing on social media in the lead up to this gig, Dan seemed more at ease on stage than I ever remember seeing him before, joking with band members (and there were plenty to joke with, the band at times tonight verging on double-figures…) and asking for “Hell yeah”’s from sections of the crowd who had travelled more than ten, fifty, one hundred, two hundred miles to attend the gig. Admittedly, some in the audience could have been a bit (by which I mean a lot) more respectful, especially given that Dan himself is a huge proponent of the crowd being quiet when the musicians are playing. Having said that, one song (I forget which) towards the end of the set brought the crowd to near silence.
The new album has been so long coming that, even though the set-list was predominantly taken from it, a large chunk were as comfortably familiar as a well-worn pair of shoes. The likes of Evidence, Lady MacBeth and Star Crossed Lovers have been in the live set for some time, and I found myself silently singing along to all three. The melancholy that Boss Caine seems to be known for (and which puts some people I know off) was still in evidence, but overall this was a much lighter performance. Of the new songs, the title track of the album, with Edwina Hayes sharing vocal duties, was a revelation – a Boss Caine song you can dance to, who’d have thought it? Rounding out the main part of the set, Smoking In My Backyard – a live staple for even longer – included a chorus sing-along from the audience, egged on by the band’s trumpet player, who jumped off stage to encourage us to join in.
The Boss Caine line-up varies from gig to gig and, even though it was billed as full-band for tonight’s show, that tradition continued from song to song. From memory, the only members on stage for every song were Dan and Bradley Blackwell, the latter switching from bass to double bass for one song. Of the rest, Amy Greene, provided backing vocals and percussion for most songs, but even she had to be encouraged back to the microphone for the last two songs – Dead Man’s Suit and personal favourite Leaving Victoria a sort of encore addition at the end of the main set. (Despite cries of “More!” after over and hour of music there was no actual encore.) Keiran O’Malley was the only other familiar face to me and his violin playing seemed more restrained, and yet still effective, tonight.
A friend and local musician who I was talking to at the gig (not during the set) had already heard the album – I picked my copy up on the night and it’s currently on rotation as I write this – and told me how good it was and how the Boss Caine sound had progressed, leading him to wonder what the next album would be like. He mentioned a fuller sound, with bigger compositions and his speculations went down the Bruce Springsteen route. Now, I am in no way saying that Boss Caine and The Boss are on a level but it did get my brain working overtime during the set and I couldn’t help but see Amy Greene as, in a musical sense, Patti Scialfa to Dan Lucas and the addition of that trumpet, while a different sound to Clarence Clemens’ sax, couldn’t help but increase the image of the collective as a Yorkshire E-Street Band (although that moniker has already been taken by another brilliant brass-filled band), even though O’Malley is usually more of a visual foil to Dan than the trumpet player was tonight. Maybe, just maybe, there is more comparable between the two than those shared four letters.