Reviews of obs Unplugged
at the Musician ∏
On this page: January 16th, 17th, 18th
Saturday 18th January at The Musician
Kevin Gaughan reports
Photos and videos by Kevin Gaughan
8 pm Oval Iris
8:15 pm Leo Kai
8:45 Leila Jane
9:15 Sold Separately
9:45 Alex Oxley
10:15 The Fallows
10.45 The Clarendons
11.15 Elizabeth Cornish
Photos from tonight’s show, by Kevin Gaughan
Starting off the packed evening of quality artists, in the candle-lit Musician, was a young duo called Oval Iris. Both 17 years old, Shannon Montford and Michaela Neeham, had an air of confidence, unusual in such young musicians.
Starting off with the Black Keys’ cover, Lonely Boy, it became clear that this duo were a perfect match for each other. With well matched harmonies and sometimes playing their guitars in synchronisation with each other, these girls performed well beyond their tender years. Performing a mix of their own material and covers, this duo clearly have a bright future.
Second on the stage tonight was Leo Kai, a popular singer and songwriter on the Leicester scene. Leo explained that his guitar was called ‘Kai’, which added an endearing touch to his performance. He also explained that he had just got back from a three-week holiday, was suffering from jet-lag, and this was why he got some lyrics wrong and stopped a song half way through. Leo also said he “hadn’t prepared for this gig”, making me feel sorry for the people who paid to see and support him tonight. On the other hand, his music was quite special. Leo’s guitar technique was fascinating to watch as he bashed, tapped and plucked at the strings and his songs were of good quality and his lyrics were about every day events – one even caused his girlfriend to get together with him!
Sold Separately, an acoustic duo from Leicester, comprising Tom Crump and Kate Rendell, Kate also being from the popular local band, Moccasin Mile. Performing a mixture of original and cover songs, the harmonies were more contrasting rather than complimentary. Sold Separately performed a solid and hugely enjoyable set with confidence and competent song writing.
Alex Oxley used to be in the local indie rock band, The Hordes, and performed tonight with Ollie Hilton. This was their first performance, having formed three months ago. Some of Alex’s vocal inflections tonight reminded me of the Hordes and this helped set Alex and Ollie apart from the other acts. Performing with a wide variety of tempos, I thoroughly enjoyed this performance and look forward to seeing more from this duo.
Following on from Alex and Ollie, were The Fallows, a ‘foot stompin” indie folk band from Coventry. Having seen them at various gigs and festivals before, I know they are masters of whipping the crowd into a frenzy with their flavour of infectious, up-tempo folk music. However, tonight was supposed to be a more subdued ‘unplugged’ performance. The tempo was still the same high-octane, foot stompin” stuff that I love them for. With five of them and all their instruments, including keyboards on stage, it looked like a tight squeeze. With generous use of the violin, the Fallows captured the seated audience and performed a spectacular set, completely different from anything else on the bill. Hugely enjoyable and good fun, too.
Following hot on the heals of the Fallows were The Clarendons. A four-piece band from around Clarendon Park, Leicester. Having lived in New York, they took great pleasure in telling us how one of their songs is ‘endorsed’ by Paul McCartney. Apparently, as they were playing it in Central Park, he walked past them and said ‘great song, lads.’ Equipped with harmonica, they brought yet another dimension to tonight’s proceedings. It did sound as if the vocals faltered at times, and they did occasionally lose the audience’s focus. I still found them enjoyable to listen to, and a worthy complement to tonight’s line-up.
The last performance of the evening was the popular singer and songwriter, Elizabeth Cornish. Having been performing on the local scene for a few years, she has built up an impressive reputation. Earlier on in the day, Elizabeth did a live performance and interview on Leicester’s Takeover Radio 103.2. In my opinion, Elizabeth is Leicester’s answer to Sinead O’Connor! Unfortunately, as it was approaching midnight, some of the crowd had gone home. Those that were left, however, were in for a real treat. I used to love hearing Elizabeth perform on her own, but tonight she had her band with her. Her band subtly filled her music into a bigger sound and complimented her voice perfectly, letting it and it’s subtleties still shine through. A beautiful performance by Elizabeth, ending tonight’s obsUnplugged on the highest of highs. Elizabeth’s album launch party will be held at the Cookie Jar on Sat, 15th March, 2014 at 7:30pm.
Friday 17th January at the Musician
On tonight’s show: Lucy Davis, Nile McGreggor, Rosa Leigh, Matt Henshaw, The Native, Sean Grant, The Simpletones, The Bobcats and Abandon Her
Photos by Kevin Gaughan
obs Unplugged isn’t all about solo artists singing and playing guitars. We have seen a wide range of groups and ensembles as well as a vast variety of instruments. Stylistically, the offering has been eclectic – folk, rock, pop, blues – a cornucopia of musical idioms, reflecting the vibrancy of what our local scene has to offer.
16 year old Lucy Davis opened the show, her strong, clear voice ringing out into the room. With her delicate guitar picking and good articulation, Lucy entranced the audience with a set of attractive songs. Performing at her first gig, Lucy seemed a little nervous, although she appeared confident on stage. Delightful.
A fair sized crowd packed into the room for the performance of one of Leicester’s much-loved and well established singers. Nile McGreggor brought his songs and his personality to the stage for a solidly good performance. Talking to the audience and pulling them in to the show, Nile demonstrated his well-worn stage craft. Nile is a songwriter with a knack of penning tunes full of mood and colour, one who brings himself into the act and grabs the attention of the audience.
Philip Vernon’s photo of Nile McGreggor
- Nile McGreggor at Sings of Distinction 2013 By Phlip Vernon
Rosa Leigh‘s attractively toned vocals were her best asset; her set of songs was quiet and soft, delightful for those who were listening but sometimes not strong enough to impact on the audience, a proportion of whom were socialising – noisily.
Unplugged shows provide opportunities for both newly emerging artists as well established acts.
Matt Henshaw filled the room with his strong vocals making his presence felt and winning acclaim from the ample audience. Matt delivered a set of vibrant songs, projecting his voice into the room, proving that he is an artists who is on the up.
The Native was one guitar and one violinist whose unusual combo whose songs were good, both of them singing together, at times, in an ear-pleasing harmony.
A really good set full of character and presence as delivered by Sean Grant. The singer from Northants presented a robust and varied set, offering plenty of style and colour, winning an appreciative set from the audience.
The Simpletones – one of Leicester’s defining vocal acts – gave plenty of new songs this year, alongside some that we have heard before. Very glad to hear Bastille’s Pompeii again and their all-time favourite Wimoweh. Having become one of the most widely admired vocal groups in Leicester, The Simpletones are heading towards their biggest challenge yet, a UK wide competition in which we could well see them capture the national limelight. Always a highlight of the ‘Unplugged. Spectacular.
A new band with a new style: The Bobcats kept the momentum going, after a hard act to follow, with their special brand of blues rock. In a performance loaded with power, Stu Crown lead the Bobcats in a romping set, accompanied by on bass and on the drums the will-known musician and sound engineer – Boppa. Style and charisma flowed from the stage, with gravelly, passionate vocals and blistering guitar solos as they created oodles of atmosphere.
Three young ladies and a male drummer took up their positions under the name Abandon Her. Delivering some of their own songs and a cover, they gave a very different interpretation to the song we heard earlier – Pompeii – making it their own and rounding off this evening of fine music with a very enjoyable set.
Sunday 19th January
The show was opened by Avishek Choudhury whose beautiful finely tuned voice, with its wide range, was used to good effect in his opening song Don’t Leave me High and Dry (Radiohead maybe). Switching to an original song, Don’t let things tie you down, Avishek showed his talents as a song writer. Following that with Dido’s Don’t leave home, Avishek touched some note perfect high notes before moving on to Take That’s Patience, which we put down his guitar and sang to backing tracks – clearly an artist who is not afraid to tackle difficult songs Covering the Script’s The Man who can’t be moved, Avishek shows us the breadth of his musical tastes and his vocal techniques.
Going by the name No Man’s Heath – Tom Kane brought a set of atmospheric melodic songs, picking away at his guitar strings and singing with his nicely toned voice. Soft and gentle songs with captivating lyrics. You can hear several of Tom Kane’s songs on bandcamp.
Bethan Marshall was on stage next with her keyboard player and box drummer (who also played Djembe.) Singing with her wide ranging voice, Bethan entertained the audience with some cheerful chat between the songs. The keyboard accompaniment brought songs to live and Bethan’s singing was delivered with good technique. Her set included Bon Iver’s Skinny love, alongside some of her own songs. Warmly received by the audience it was a very enjoyable set.
Natalie Pascale sang with her guitar accompanist in a set comprising main cover songs, including Justin Timberlake’s Suit & Tie. Natalie’s well articulated singing and pleasingly timbred vocals, combined with the instrumental backing, made this an acceptable set.
The style changed when teenage rapper Nashe Ti took to the take to deliver an impressive set of songs he had made driven by a lively presentation on stage. He had a good voice and as a new kid on the block handled his set very well.
Establish rap artist Jonezy was on next. Sean Tizzard writes:
Jonezy jumps to the stage and entertains all of those present with a set of boundless energy. By the end of his set, he’s challenging Lee Evans on the sweat front, such is the effort that this talented rapper puts into this show. With a well produced backing track for company, he spits his positive messages into his radio mic as if he’s auditioning to be a replacement for Mr. Motivator. ‘Stay Strong’, urges Jonezy and one can’t help but be uplifted. In a break to the high-energy, Jonezy slows it down with a ‘Letter To Dad’, a tribute to his Dad he never knew, who died from cancer when he was six days old. Candles on the tables at the Musician are waved in the air; spotlights on phones are shone; those of a more traditional bent spark up their lighters. This is the emotional interlude of the set before more energy brings this 25 minute experience to a close. It’s compelling and even if rap is not your thing I defy you not to smile.
Thursday 16th January 2014 at The Musician
On tonight’s show: We All Fall Silent, James Heathen, Roll 13s, Bellaware, George Simpson and Rhett Barrow
Tonight’s show was opened by Daniel James Perry who performs under the title: We All Fall Silent. This singer from Grantham had a voice with character and song lyrics embued with an attractive sense of humour, delivering a light-hearted and entertaining set. You can hear his tracks on Soundcloud.
James Heathen, from Leicester, opened his set with a cover before going on to sing some of his songs. Delivering expressive vocals, accompanying himself on the guitar, James gave us likeable melodic lines and appealing emotional colours. James’s song I’m on my way demonstrated his vocal abilities; an agreeable song.
Roll 13s, from Lutterworth, saw four musicians on the stage, starting their set with Back to the blues, backed by strong guitar playing and fronted by strong vocals. Roll 13s’ cover of Jimmy Cliff’s I can see clearly now was particularly enjoyable and they put their own take on it. Whether performing their own songs or their interpretations of well-known covers, Roll 13s presented a set with plenty of verve, culminating in a thumpy, up-beat song Jack Knife.
Acoustic folk group Bellawave brought the strong and clear vocals of Leah Nolan to the mic, as she led the group in a vibrant opening number. With backing vocals from the guitarist, Bellawave delivered an enjoyable set of songs.Hold me closer gave us an attractive melody with some-pleasing bass riffs; a nicely balanced set. Not bad; not bad at all.
One singer I had seen before was George Simpson, who was joined on stage by musicians Benn Hartmann, Josh Bugden and Jack Bains.
In my opinion George is one of Leicester’s best male vocalists, his songs are laden with vitality and melodic melifluence. Benn Hartmann added to the vocal layer in some songs and the instrumental backing was marvelous. A set of extra-ordinary quality delivered with finesse.
You can see George Simpson with the full band at The Donkey on 31st January.
Rhett Barrow can always be relied on to give a resounding performance. A celebrated local singer and songwriter.