It might have been distinctly uninspiring outside The Flapper tonight (unseasonably nippy and just a trifle moist) but deep in the bowels of this legendary Birmingham boozer and gig venue Patrick Duff (for newcomers yes, he was the lead singer of critically acclaimed late 90s alt rock band Strangelove) is once again delivering the sort of set that makes you glad you’ve got ears. If that sounds a little over dramatic just go and see him first (by the way he's supporting The Blue Aeroplanes on their June tour).
On the surface he’s simply a gifted singer songwriter with a guitar but he sprinkles each and every song with something truly special, from the primal howl at the climax of opening number No Man’s Land right through to the improv mouth trumpet solo during set closer Three Little Monkeys. Plucking songs from his solo albums (the third’s recorded and funding is currently being raised via PledgeMusic for a very special vinyl pressing) this evening, like all of Patrick’s sets, took you through pretty much the full range of human emotions from the resigned collective despair of Fucked and on to the resurrection shuffle of Dead Man Singing. It’s pure, raw, powerful stuff sung by man who knows the highs and lows of modern life better than most, an artist whose rich history (both person and ancestral) echoes throughout each and every note and it is...in my humble opinion...simply magical.
After a number of years in the wilderness (literally – he lived in some woods for a while – and metaphorically) now really seems like something of a rebirth for him with a new manager, Nick, clearly as passionate about Patrick's talent as...well...I am.
From a familiar name to a new one, although 28 year old Tom Copson has clearly been winning over some impressive fans with none other than Seasick Steve stopping by one of his busking gigs and hanging around for 20 minutes or so before inviting him to his own gig later that day. If it’s good enough for Seasick...
Opening with an inventive folked up version of Cameo’s classic Word Up was a great way to start the gig and, whilst the venue may have been less than packed out (oh the perils of a self promoted Sunday night gig on a wet and windy May evening in Brum), it was enthusiastically received. It was on the self penned tracks that Tom’s forte really becomes clear with an impressive vocal range and power that’s clearly benefited hugely from his busking days.
Pick of the set included Treehouse, a dreamy vision of a future lived with the girl of his dreams, a VW campervan and a treehouse. I can relate to that (not sure that my swimming pool sized enamel bath would fit in there though) and Prayers For Benjamin. It’s on this latter track that Tom digs out the omnichord, an obscure instrument from the 80s favoured by, amongst others Brian Eno and Nick Rhodes (now there’s a pairing I’d like to see). It’s a really great song (even without the omnichord), written I believe for a friend in the grip of the debilitating illness of ME and sung tonight with the sort of passion that, would such miracles resist, might just result in a cure.
The homage to...and warning against...the joys and pains of the demon drink in Uncluttered Spaces gave Tom another chance to showcase that impressive 4 octave vocal range of his whilst giving all of us who like a pint or three a moment of reflection. With some strong songs and a voice to match it was a really enjoyable set, capping off an intimate evening that really deserved more of an audience.
PS: Tom’s new single, Moments, is out today on iTunes.