Friday, December 4, 2015

Guy Garvey + Steve Mason. Live at the 02 academy Birmingham (3/1215) Live Review.

Sometimes you wonder why the people at the door even bother. A quarter of the audience for Guy Garvey had beards, and at a sprightly 23, I was the youngest at the show by far. They checked my bag. Yet throughout the whole show I doubt they found any more than a few tabs of Ibuprofen. I had managed to win two free tickets to see Guy Garvey promoting his d├ębut solo album away from Elbow, "Courting The Squall". The first musician on stage was Steve Mason (7.2). The Ex -Beta Band member who has made a critical success of himself with his series of solo albums. I have no idea how he does it, but Steve makes the traditional format of guy singing with an acoustic guitar sound unique. His voice and guitar both rang out and filled the room with a pleasing echo. It shouldn't be possible. Yet with nothing more than a few chords he makes a noise that sounds like no one else. His set was short and filled with some friendly banter, as well as explanations for the political meanings behind some of his songs. I was really impressed.

You can tell a lot about a band by the merchandise that they sell. You will always find T shirts, signed cds/vynils and possibly a few posters. On Guy Garvey's merchandise table were Mugs with 'Unwind' and hip flasks with 'Courting the Squall' written on them. Which is a poetic way of saying 'coping with cold weather'*. Best of all was the bath robe. At over £30 this fluffy white bath robe hints that Guy really knows his audience. Despite this being the first tour, for the first solo album a huge crowd of Elbow devotees slowly filled the room. I have personally always admired Elbow for never following trends or using gimmicks. Never imitating anyone else and putting the music before anything else. There is a calm sophistication to Elbow's music. The same is true for Guy's solo songs.
Arriving on-stage to huge applause. Guy and co opened with the typically gentle ballad, 'Three Bells'. They changed the mood with 'Angela's Eyes'. A fun and bizarrely funky take on his usual sound, featuring his rather strange keyboard solo's. This was followed by the absolutely beautiful 'Courting the Squall'. This show felt less like a gig and more like a night at the theatre. Guy introduced us all to his super-group of Mancunians, including members of The Whip and I am Kloot, with the preferred nicknames to shout at them. Guy's drunkenness and Guinness drinking only made him more likeable. He is one of the rare singers who can talk to a huge crowd, while making it seem as if he's talking to each person as an individual. He was great at bantering with the crowd, talking about politics, the german market, the inspirations behind his songs, and responding to heckles just as a comedian would.
The show was fun and felt very spontaneous and relaxed. After nearly running out of his own songs Peter Jobson of Iam Kloot took over on piano to play two of his own darkly funny piano ballads. 'Belly of the Whale' made things nice and funky again, and the chant which he asked us all to sing throughout 'Broken Bottles and Chandeliers' was repeated long after he'd left the stage. Rather than just clapping and shouting, everyone sung this refrain over and over again unison until the band came back onstage. I'd never seen such a civilised or enthusiastic demand for an encore. Guy, Peter, and the guy from **The Whip all came onstage together for an acoustic cover of 'I don't want to set the world on fire' (by the Ink Spots). Guy asked us what song we'd like them to play, and immediately shouted 'Angela's Eyes?' OK! Only this time the keyboard solo was played on his other weird looking mini keyboard.  Without playing a single Elbow song Guy left the audience captivated. This was a master-class in putting on a brilliant show without actually trying.

* It's clever because they're both songs  on the album but also because you drink tea to unwind and spirits to warm yourself.
**The Whip are really underrated band, best known for the song 'Trash'. The 'X Marks Destination' LP is well worth hearing
I'd like to thank Setlist fm for helping me write this

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