Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Cherry Ghost

Òran Mór, Glasgow - 17th June 2014

It was a happen-chance hearing of "Kissing Strangers" on the This Is My Jam website on June 2010 that drew me into Cherry Ghost's world of songs filled with hope and light, but often with a dark background.

Biog stuff: Taking his name from a line in a tune by Wilco (Theologians), Cherry Ghost is the stage name for Simon Aldred, a British singer songwriter who decided to strike out on his own as a solo act in 2005 after several years of playing in a succession of not-so-successful bands. Aldred quickly earned a reputation as a "band" to watch (Later with Jools Nov 2006), and Aldred began performing live under the Cherry Ghost name. The debut Cherry Ghost single, "Mathematics," was released in April 2007. A second single, "People Help The People," arrived the following June. The debut Cherry Ghost album, Thirst for Romance, was released in July 2007. The "Kissing Strangers" track which originally caught my ear was from the follow-up album "Beneath This Burning Shoreline" - July 2010. Well worth a listen. As Cherry Ghost's performing schedule increased, Aldred turned Cherry Ghost into a "real" band with a stable lineup: Jim Rhodes, Ben Parson, Grenville Harrop, and Phil Anderson. Herd Runners, the latest album, was released May 19th 2014. 

This was their mini tour kick-off gig and the Oran Mor venue was pretty hot - it was about 25 degrees Celcius outside and hotter still indoors. Cherry Ghost strolled onto stage, trying unsuccessfully not to break into a sweat.
They were a scaled down band with just Simon Aldred (vocals, guitar), Christian Madden (keyboards) and Grenville Harrop (drums). Madden sat at his keyboard and immediately took off his boots and played the whole gig in his bright red socks.
Aldred kicked things off with "Hello Glasgow" and launched into the heartfelt "Drinking For Two". The crowd cheered and sang along enthusiastically, finally whooping and shouting encouragement at the end. 

Aldred was obviously pleasantly surprised and said "Cheers everyone. We've been supporting Paul Heaton recently" someone in the audience whooped and Aldred continued "oh ok, a supporter, well we won't slag them off then" and smiled. He continued "we've done a whole string of gigs and all we ever get is a polite clap clap, so this is really nice".

The title track from the new album, Herd Runners, was next. The crowd re-doubled their singalong efforts and joined in for "4 a.m.", "Clear Skies Ever Closer" and almost every track.
On "Thirst For Romance" from the first album, Cherry Ghost performed a great up-tempo dancealong version and the audience responded noisily. 
When they finished the song, Aldred said "Not sure we deserve such applause - we screwed up a couple of time there!" but the crowd didn't seem to notice or care.

I particularly liked the subtle darkness of "My God Betrays" and the heart-wrenching, organ filled beauty of "Please Come Home".

Curfew time was approaching when they finished "Mathematics" with a lot more crowd singalong, word perfect. Aldred looked embarrassed and said "Cheers, but full marks to everyone who noticed I fucked up the 2nd verse". He looked at his watch and said "OK, we've got about 10 minutes left, but we're not going to bother going off and you cheer and shout, then we come back on for an encore - waste of time. We'll play another couple for tracks, then we're off!" 

Smiles and cheers from the audience, as they played the intro to "Four Eyes". They followed that with "People Help The People" and it was over. The house lights came up and we went to peruse the merchandise stand.

It was really good to see Aldred obviously moved by the support of the Glasgow crowd, and for their first headline gig on this mini-tour, albeit with a scaled down band, it was a really good night.

Set-list was:
Drinking For Two
Herd Runners
(It's) 4am
Clear Skies Ever Closer
A Month Of Mornings
False Alarm
Thirst For Romance 
All I Want
My God Betrays
Please Come Home
Four Eyes
People Help The People 

The Rails

The support act were a complete unknown to me before the gig, so it was a really pleasant surprise to see and hear The Rails who are singer-songwriter duo Kami Thompson and James Walbourne. 

James has played with Ray Davies, become part of the touring line up for The Pogues and joined The Pretenders as lead guitarist in 2008. In 2011, he made his first solo album, The Hill, for Heavenly records. 

Kami is the youngest daughter of Richard and Linda Thompson, the first couple of Seventies folk rock. She has been a backing singer with Linda, performed with members of the Wainwright family, toured with Sean Lennon and Bonnie Prince Billy and released her own solo album, Love Lies, on Warner Music in 2011. 

Co-produced by Blue Boy himself,  Edwyn Collins, The Rails debut album Fair Warning is packed with traditional and original songs. Recognising class when they hear it, Island records have revived their famous vintage Pink Label for the duo.

Their songs were all performed to twin acoustic guitar backing, beautifully performed. Kami has such a good voice, and James has amazing guitar skills (I would love to have heard him more electrified) and together their harmonies were spot on. Some of the songs were straight up country (e.g. Habit and William Taylor), but where I think they really shone was on their slightly darker, more edgy or up-tempo songs - Send Her To Holloway, Fair Warning and Breakneck Speed. They also do a lovely cover of Edwyn Collins' Low Expectations

Go and hear them live if you can before they break big - you won't regret it

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Edwyn Collins

Edwyn Collins (With support Colorama) 

@ Òran Mór Glasgow 15th June 2014

14th December 2013 was the last time I saw Edwyn (at the Kid Canaveral Xmas Baubles event in Portobello, Edinburgh) so this was an opportunity to see him back performing in his old stomping ground in Glasgow. 
Òran Mór was packed with a real mix of ages - from the grey haired crumblies in their 1970s Postcard T-shirts (that were now too small) to the skinny-jeans teenagers that bagged the front-of-stage spot from the start. 
The band took the stage to much applause, but as Edwyn wasn't with them, there was a slighty muted response. Someone in the band said "Quiet in here tonight" and the obligatory wag in the audience shouted back "Give us a tune!" and they did - launching into a quite a funky jam with plenty of chucka-chucka guitar and fine bass and drums. 

From the back left hand corner, we could see Grace, Edwyn's wife, helping him up the small set of stairs to the stage. He made his way slowly, amidst rapturous applause, to the centre of the stage and parked his bum on the monitor speaker. 

"Hello nice Glasgow people" he said as the crowd cheered.

Carefully he said "Falling", "And", Laughing" and we were off on a wonderful trip through old Orange Juice classics, post-Orange Juice numbers from Gorgeous George, Texas Fever and Hope and Despair and a lot of more recent tracks from his later albums Home Again, Losing Sleep and the wonderful Understated (which is currently still in the running for the Scottish Album of the Year)

Next they moved quickly into "What Presence" with a lovely saxophone backing from Sean Read and some nice controlled guitar from Dave Page. We'd already had some impressive guitar from Dave Page as part of Colorama, the support act, but he really shone in Edwyn's band. 
Dave Page and Edwyn

Edwyn introduced the band slowly and with a few mistakes "It's called aphasia" he said explaining his halting speech. The crowd didn't care - it was just great to see the smile on his face as he was obviously enjoying being there with an adoring audience.

The band were: Paul Cook ex Sex Pistols (drums), Andy Hackett (guitar), Sean Read (saxophone, keyboards, backing vocals), Carwyn Ellis (bass), David Page (guitar) - Ellis and Page had previously strutted their stuff as one half of the support act Colorama.

Andy Hackett

Highlights for me were Make Me Feel Again from Gorgeous George, Wheels of Love from Hope and Despair and Forsooth from Understated. Edwyn introduce Forsooth as "Very Velvet Underground" paying homage to his early influences. 
Forsooth - Velvety Underground

They rattled through some more excellent old and new numbers, before Edwyn said "And now our first, no... second single -  Blue Boy". The band were firing on all cylinders as they launched into Blue Boy, followed by Rip It Up and of course A Girl Like You - everyone was jigging, even the crumblies. Edwyn was standing for the latter two numbers, and looking happy as I've ever seen him.

That was the end of the first set, and Edwyn slowly left the stage while the band jammed on for an up-tempo extended finish to A Girl Like You. Then they too left the stage. It was pretty close to 10pm, the Oran Mor shut-off time, but the crowd wanted more.... and kept on cheering and clapping. The stage manager ran on with two chairs and plonked them either side of Edwyn's monitor-cum-seat. Then on came Carwyn Ellis and David Page with acoustic guitars, closely followed by the man himself. Big cheers!

They got themselves settled and performed two really beautiful acoustic numbers - Low Expectations and Home Again.  The stripped back nature of the performance really showed the quality of the songs - possibly my favourite part of the whole gig.
That must be the end we thought. It's past 10pm, but the rest of the band came on, Carwyn and Dave swapped back to their electric instruments, the chairs were removed.... and Edwin said "Felicity" 

Off they went - a real driving version of Felicity followed by Don't Shilly Shally - the small Oran Mor venue was jumping.

Finally it was time to finish. Edwyn raised his cane to wave goodbye, but the low ceiling over the Oran Mor stage stopped him making his farewell gesture properly. The band drove on with Shilly Shally - finally Paul Cook brought it to a drum crash finale and the house lights came up. Edwyn said "Goodbye Glasgow, see you again....sometime.... soon" 

Really look forward to it Mr Collins!

Set-list was:  
Falling and Laughing
What Presence
Make Me Feel Again
Poor Old Soul
Wheels of Love
Dying Day
Losing Sleep
Blue Boy
Rip It Up
Girl Like You
Acoustic encore with Ellis and Page:
Low Expectations
Home Again
Full band encore:
Don't Shilly Shally

The support was...


Colorama are currently on Edwyn's AED Record label and are led by Carwyn Ellis (Vocals, Keyboards, Guitar and Bass) with Luca Guernieri (Drums)  David Page (Guitar) and Andrea Garbo (Bass) - Ellis and Page were to return as part of Edwyn's band.

Recent releases - "Good Music" LP 2013 and "Heaven’s Hotel" EP 2014 on AED Records

I didn't know any of their tracks in advance of the gig, but really liked the first couple of songs. The level of musicianship (is that a word?) was obvious, and they were a fine warm up for the main man. I think I need to review some of their material online.