Speakers Push Air

KYEO Live Reviews

Water Tower Bucket Boys / Rob Heron & The Teapad Orchestra –

Cluny 2

Weird scenes at the Jumping Hot Club, as a couple of rows of chairs were arranged right along the front of the stage, and promptly occupied by some of more elderly audience.

There’s a logic to making the older crowd feel welcome, but since the Cluny 2 is pretty well served with seating off to one side, I wonder if it’s worth confronting youngish bands with a bunch of fairly old, fairly immobile people at the front when they’re onstage giving it loads (the kind of music on display tonight may hark back to a more ‘vintage’ era but it’s still  a living, breathing thing and people do still want to dance).

That quibble aside, it was another cracking bill from Jumping Hot. The Tea Pad Orchestra were on great form (they’re definitely on a roll at the moment) and I can’t help feeling that if they were from Kentucky or Paris or anywhere other than Tyneside, they’d be making an even bigger impression than they already are. Just because they’re local, it would be a mistake to take them for granted – this level of invention and musicianship, this blend of disparate styles (primarily Cajun, western swing and gypsy jazz, but with hints of much more) is to be cherished.

Water Tower Bucket Boys appear to be at a transition stage, to the extent that they’re in the process of dropping the ‘Bucket Boys’ from their name. The difference seems to be that on the Bucket Boys material, the drummer plays the harmonica instead, and stylistically the Water Tower material is a little more country rock, a little less bluegrass (moving perhaps from parallels with The Black Twig Pickers to Old Crow Medicine Show, roughly).

But in either incarnation, these four young guys play like demons. The fiddler / frontman is a revelation, utterly energised, bandy legged as he saws away, looking more like an underground hip hop fan than someone clearly immersed in the high lonesome sound of the music they play. They seemed a little thrown by the aforementioned front row and worked hard to win people over with some enjoyably daft patter and some revelations about a Ween tattoo on the guitarist’s butt and by the end the crowd was theirs.

Richard Hawley / Lisa Hannigan

O2 Academy

Tonight’s support Lisa Hannigan has a lovely voice, a neat way with an inventive arrangement, a really charming stage presence and brings some interesting touches to what is essentially folk material.

I know all this because I’ve seen her on the tellybox, not because of her support slot to Richard Hawley, which – like so many support acts before her – was sacrificed on the altar of dreadful sound and the incessant chatter of the Radio 2 crowd (those people who buy their albums at Tesco, go to two gigs a year and talk all the way through them). If you stood right near the front and listened really carefully, you could just make out her dedicate a cover of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down to the late Levon Helm. It would be good to see her somewhere more suitable because this just didn’t work.

Even the headliner suffered from a chatty, easily distracted crowd.  As Hawley put it, “You lot must be really rich, to be able to afford a ticket to a gig and talk all the way through it”. This was especially irksome on the slow, mournful delicate numbers from Truelove’s Gutter – songs that need silence and attention, not braying drunks and ringing tills. Luckily, most of this show was about Standing At The Sky’s Edge, and that meant guitars.

Lots of them: at one point Hawley was changing guitar for every song and it took half the set before he used the same one twice. It takes a special talent to go from Roy Orbison to the Stooges in the space of a couple of songs but Hawley is more than up to it. He’s also great company, quick with an inappropriate anecdote or sweary aside. On a beautifully dressed stage (it’s amazing what a few quid and a trip to the garden centre can do), backed by an unshowy but effective band, Hawley dragged almost Neil Young-esque solos out of his guitars without ever being flash, reminding us that he was a shit hot guitarist long before he settled on the lovelorn ballad as his main style.

While people did seem to be getting a little fidgety towards the end (if ever there was a gig better suited to the seats and acoustics of the Sage, this was it – and it’s not often I think that), Hawley pulled it back in storming style with closer The Ocean, that made even the most irritating parts of the crowd shut the fuck up.

Photo kindly provided by Alan Harrison

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