Thursday, September 17, 2009

Alela Diane / Laura Gibson @ The Town Hall, Birmingham, Wednesday 16th September 2009

Continuing my love/hate relationship with the Town Hall (I just struggle to get on with it as a gig venue) tonight worked surprisingly well. It was, at a guess, less than 20% full, which is a real shame given the quality of the artists on offer, but there you go. First up a totally new name to me, Laura Gibson. Seemingly as frail as a gentle breeze her solo set kept the few of us that were there nicely entranced for a good half hour or so. She’s got one of those lullaby kind of voices that you can imagine rocking babies to sleep to. Not that I have…or ever wish to…have babies. Poor buggers. You’ve got to feel for them. What kind of a world will they grow up in eh? Shafted from birth. No wonder they’re screaming their heads off. Anyway, Laura Gibson’s soothing voice will certainly help them endure the slings and arrows of life and they could do worse than listen to her lyrics too. She sang something about how the lines on your face were the pattern left by time. That’s a good way of looking at it. Pick of the set a crackingly good piece of Americana entitled ‘Spirited’…which you lucky folk can check on her MySpace thingy.

On then to yet another discovery that I have Pig Radio to thank for (on top of Frida Hyvonen, Okkervil River, The Bird and The Bee, The Decemberists…oh the list is endless…gawd bless ‘em), Alela Diane’s ‘The Pirate’s Gospel’ (‘yo ho yo ho ho yo ho ho’ indeed) fixed itself firmly in my brain last year and refused to leave. It’s a sea shanty kind of track (as you might guess) and the perfect vehicle for her strong sea shanty kind of vocal. I’m not sure what the technical term is but her voice kind of rises and falls, often during an individual word (have a listen, you’ll hear what I mean…either that or you’ll have me sectioned for hearing things).

For some reason Alela didn’t do ‘The Pirate’s Gospel’ tonight. I didn’t see any pirates either…unless you count the bar staff who wanted to charge several pieces of gold for a small glass o’rum (well, red wine in any case…I’d hate to contemplate what they’d charge for a glass of rum). Ohhaaa me ’arties, shiver me timbers. Speaking of wine (yeah, I’m a ponce I know) what the hell are they serving at The Town Hall. The back of the small bottle I bought describes the flavour as having a touch of mint. It does. It tastes of mouthwash. Seriously. It’s probably the worst glass of wine I have EVER tasted (and, being a cheapskate, I’ve had some pretty rough wine over the years). Happily Alela, a justifiably rising star of the Folk Americana (music to sit on the porch of a log cabin by) scene, more than took my mind off the stuff. She did a few songs with Alina first (another female vocalist whose harmonies with Alela were just sublime) before being joined by her dad and a couple of beardy blokes who rocked things up a bit by adding mandolin, bass and drums respectively. Alela herself seemed genuinely knocked out by the beauty and history of the venue (prompting me to think, ‘yeah, it is pretty special’) and, even though it was obviously fairly empty she seemed to enjoy herself as much as my fellow listeners. Someone shouted out ‘next time it will be full’, judging by the lushness of tracks like White As Diamonds (‘Early One Morning’ crossed with that song that used to be on the Cadbury’s flake ads…you know the one…‘Only the crumbliest flakiest chocolate…’) it might well be. Special mention and respect due to the beardy bass player (Tom Bevitori) for his comedy turns, especially his ‘Birmingham? I thought we were playing Burning Man’ routine. Genius.

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