with Rhett Barrow, David Masson, Phillip Eldridge-Smith, Amy Dx and Kenton Hall
Reviewed by Adam Piotrowski
The first act of the evening will be a familiar face to Leicester music fans; Rhett Barrow has been on the scene for years, and you may have heard his raspy voice over whaling guitars and rowdy drums in the band, Dedbeats, or him playing acoustically at a local open mic night.
Tonight we saw him playing with just an acoustic guitar and microphone, a pint of lager by his feet for him to take the occasional gulp from. The music was captivating, the singer’s knees bending and an occasional lean backwards to counteract the strength of a powerful bellow. His voice was gruff over strummed chords, lyrics exploring the struggles of everyday life, such as Bitter Rain, and timing is always ticking slowly/walking alone, are you feeling lonely?
His sense of timing and the overall quality of performance are impressive, evidence that he had been doing this thing for years.
The most impressive moment of his performance was when, just before the last song, he went into a heartfelt story about a song from one of his favourite artists, saving him in a key moment when he became a father. It was an obscure Beck song, a recently surfaced demo called Don’t get bent out of shape, that sounded more like his lofi debut One Foot in the Grave, or as Rhett said, like a Dylan song. It was a rousing and bittersweet tune, could have been a good sing-along if the crowd knew it.
David Masson was up next, fresh from our chat over a pre-gig beer over at firebug (interview to be released soon here on Music In Leicester), where we talked about his musical inspirations, his recent battle with cancer and what we can expect next from him. Mr Masson has been drawing in Leicester music fans since his debut opening up for Amy Dx album release parts in June of 2022, with this being his 4th performance in our city.
He opened with the new song, The Blood and the Flaw, which along with another that he performed on the night, The Things I See, will both appear on his upcoming album. Songs unfolding methodically and darkly over time, thick with atmosphere. His choice of playing electric guitar serves to set him apart from other solo guitar performers, allowing him to layer affects including a significant amount of reverb.
Songs like Personality which thrums with a steady stomping beat on the record, were nicely adapted for a solo show, the guitar pounding the beat through instead. Themes of separation and pain appear in songs exploring the darkness of life.
It was interesting watching this performer, one moment you were waiting for something to happen and the next you felt yourself immersed in a sound, a feeling, with changes in the song taking levels of intensity up or down, but staying true to the original flavour. The lyric ‘guilt that deserves 50 lashes’ deserves a mention as does the fact that the singer was feeling relaxed enough to chuckle his way through an off-the-cuff story involving cancer, chicken pox, a missed work-do and a mix tape.
Creeping Jesus was powerful and brooding, the strong falsetto in the chorus hitting powerful notes, but the highlight tonight was David’s closing number, Tell the Tale. Delicate fingerpicking with a touch of brightness over gentle vocals built to a bellowing chorus with full rhythmic strumming. Again, here we were treated to a thick ooze of sound – fuller than you would expect from just a man and a guitar.
It’s musical experiences like this which make you forget where you are or what you are doing – total focus on stage and sound.
With the two advertised acts having fulfilled their musical duties, from here, things took an interesting turn, the start of the ‘plus guests’ part of the evening. First up was Phillip Eldridge-Smith (of Hymns for Horses) & Amy Dx, sharing vocal duties on the mellow banger Wicked Games. The arrangement with acoustic guitar and keyboard was sparse but the strong vocals at the chorus took the performance to another place.
Phillip left the stage and David returned to join Amy Dx, whose 2022 album Time, he produced. They performed a version of the Anna Calvi/David Byrne track Strange Weather. The piano led duet was a nice match for their vocal registers, which complimented one another very nicely.
Amy Dx took the stage solo now accompanying herself on keys, debuting a new song – as yet unreleased, which in her words will be titled ‘either What’s the Point or Life without Love.’ The song allowed Amy to show the strength and power of her voice, her emotions pushing the vocals to the limit. She is the kind of artist who does not seem to be afraid of putting herself completely out there, both on a personal/lyrical level and on a performative level.
Kenton Hall closed out the evening playing a few handfuls of new songs. The Canadian-born and bred musician also writes, acts, makes films and edits scripts, exemplifying the depth of creative talent in the area. His self-deprecating style of between-song banter could be a sign that he is well-settled in the UK. But as funny as these moments were, the focus was on the music, his smooth, rich voice delivered tales of growing up in Saskatchewan with warmth and wit, the struggles of a relationship with a father with harsh honesty.
Much of what was played on the night is to appear on an ambitious triple album project that he is undertaking. The songs were strong and in varying stages of development, which made for an intriguing atmosphere – one where you were never sure what was going to happen from moment to moment and included the audience in the creation of the song, the artist reacting to what works and what does not in real-time.
All in all the evening was enjoyable, in large part achieving what organiser Chris Ilett sets out to achieve: fostering a sense of community between musicians and audiences in Leicester. This is a monthly event that takes place at Duffy’s and is just as likely to feature artists who are just starting to gig for the first time as multi-decade veterans.
Whoever you are and whatever you do, any attendees are welcomed into the fold of this ever-extending family.
Full Transparency: Adam Piotrowski plays drums in Amy Dx’s live band.
Links to websites & music:
If you would like to share this review, please help us by using the share buttons below instead of a screen print – thanks!