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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Evening Hymns/Two Wings/Jamie Flett/Jim Dead - Pivo Pivo - 21/5/13 (Glasgow)

I'm going to make an exception and review a gig that I promoted.
The slings and arrows of accusation of blowing my own trumpet can be cast this way if anyone feels the need, but to be honest I'm not going to be talking about me.
The reason that I am tapping on the keyboard is a simple one.
I just want to share the experience because the artists who performed deserve to be mentioned in glowing terms.
They deserve the attention of music lovers everywhere and if my writing about them attracts some listeners then I am happy. .
There's nothing more to it.

Last night in Pivo Jim Dead was the first to perform opening for Canadian band Evening Hymns..
He's an easy going guy and it was a pleasure to finally meet him face to face prior to his set.
Liking him as a guy was a double edged sword though.
There is nothing worse than enjoying a performers company and then having to watch them play a less than impressive set.
What do you say after it?
Maintain the honesty and bluntly state it wasn't as good as you thought?
Or do you point heavenward and scream only to run away when you have distracted their attention?
I have expectations of everyone who plays, and I set them high.
Fortunately, over time it has been rare for anyone to really disappoint me, and as in this case often those playing effortlessly skip over the bar of quality I have set and leave me a bit breathless with just how damn good they are.
With a thirty minute set Jim covered material from his debut album and his more recent release 'I'm not lost', and while I have been very impressed with the studio material the live versions fill a room and carry their own power.
There's something solid about what he does.
It's as if he is the anchor in the room and everything is tethered to him.
All attention gravitates towards him and there doesn't appear to be any learned stagecraft involved.
Instead it feels organically pure.
Just when we thought that we had managed to get to grips with him he then eased into his last song without any musical accompaniment.
Credit has to go to the sound engineer for capturing this to.
There was a clarity to his singing that sounded alive.
The silences between the lyrics were as important to the performance as the words were.
I could sincerely describe it as a master class performance.
One that other artists could learn a great deal from.
Nothing was being pushed hard.
There was no strain exerted.
This singular song encapsulated everything that is good about live music.

Others who have seen Jim before commented that while they have always enjoyed his talent that they had never witnessed that before.
Quite literally you could have heard the proverbial pin drop as he sang.
I don't know if it was a combination of things that led to it, but I am very pleased that I was there to lay claim to having seen it.

Jamie Flett I thought was a known quantity to me, but with some additional musicians joining him I would have to say that I got exactly what I didn't expect.
This is the thing with what I would describe as real musicians.
Everything is fluid to an extent.
Every time a song is approached there's some shading to it.
No two performances will sound the same at all.
It's maybe not as noticeable if the same line up of musicians play the same song night after night, but when you drop people out, add in others, leave the violin out, add a bass guitar or one of a thousand other permutations then the end result is always different.
That's really what Jamie is like.
He's the drop of water on the back of your hand that never follows the same path to your fingertip.
There's the structure of the material that is the skeleton that everything else hangs from, but each time that you see him the muscle added allows the songs to take on different shapes.
His album 'Tales from the cuckoos nest' has been a firm favourite of mine for many months now and to see the songs given breath and sent forth from the stage is a joy in itself.
Like others I am never short in singing his, and his bands, praises to anyone will listen and this show easily vindicated my vocal faith in them.
I suppose what I am trying to convey is that Jamie is a bucket list artists.
Get his name down on your list and make sure you see him before it's too late for you.

Two Wings were the act that for a period may or may not have been playing.
I'd been messaged by the label who are releasing the UK version of Spectral Dusk asking if they could be added to the bill.
I was initially unsure as at that point I had no idea who they were.
Once I had heard them I was happy to include them on the night though, but then all went quiet and it was only a short period before the gig took place that I received word that they would indeed be playing.
It wasn't a hassle and you roll with these things.
All was to be fine.
In fact more than fine.
With a range of members taking on vocal duties it's a broad pool of influences that they can dip into and then mould together.
There's been much said about the idiosyncratic delivery of one particular vocal that reminds everyone of early Kate Bush, but it has to be said that it adds rather than detracts from the over all sound.
Not being easily slotted into a genre to aid a description is also something that is a positive rather than a negative.
While every night on pretty much every stage there are acts sticking to a formula, and very often doing it well, there is still room for a band who can hang onto something a bit more unique.
The bottom line is that Two Wings sound like Two Wings.
You can nail some influences on them, but the over all approach to their songs eclipses what lurks beneath.
They are carrying what they do well and it shouldn't be too long before their name starts cropping up on the lips of the cool kids.

Evening Hymns for me were the shining jewels in the crown of the evening.
Bringing a more electric sounding set to Glasgow in comparison to last time they still managed to maintain what I would describe as a hyper-connection with an audience.
There's a distinct move forward in another direction from the material of Spectral Dusk with the new songs sounding far more upbeat, but the set still features plenty from the album that had everyone talking.
It can be an emotionally raw experience for those who witness it.
As before Jonas lays himself bare in the lyrics and the honesty revealed eases people into empathy mode.
It's not just in the songs, but in how he engages between them that creates a connection.
In another life he could probably lead a cult or sell snake oil so maybe we should be thankful that he hasn't chosen to use his talents to beguile in a less positive manner.
Previously, and on the basis on the performance in the 13th Note last year, some may have considered it all a bit too much the..
I didn't, but sometimes the revealing of emotions can be hard for some to engage with.
This time, with the new material on show, there's some respite from that depth of sharing though.
Songs that don't draw the listener into a contemplative union, but instead a joyous communion.
I wouldn't claim the balance was off before, but just that it has shifted now.
It's not better or worse, just different again.
Still power, still making a connection and still providing memories that don't fade with the coming dawn.

Today I have an inbox full of messages sharing how much they enjoyed the bands performance.
They all say completely different things, highlight different moments and express different perceptions of what they witnessed, but what they all share is an appreciation of just how good this band are.

No one has to take my word for it though.
Buy Spectral Hymns and catch them next time they are touring.

They don't do disappointing.

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