WORDS BY JANET HARDING / IMAGES PAUL EVANS
The Guys Put So Much Energy And Enthusiasm Themselves Into This Performance That It’s Impossible Not To Love It
On a very windy, but sun soaked day in Warrington (Cheshire) town centre I arrive at tonight’s venue, Parr hall, my local theatre, a well loved, very welcoming and familiar place. It’s always great attending events here, it’s an amazing Victorian building, has seen some musical greats perform here and is a good size. Tonight sees Scottish super duo, The Proclaimers, as our headline, fresh from playing the Isle of Wight festival, with the outstanding John Bramwell as special guest on the UK tour dates.
There’s a very laid back feeling tonight and people are milling about, chatting. It’s so relaxed, unlike the giddiness or madness you often get before gigs. To be an all seated event, which feels very alien for me, is very civilised and does bring more of an intimate feel. The staff at Parr Hall genuinely are so friendly and more than helpful. I say this every time, but it really does go a long way and they do a great job, which adds to the gig experience.
The Proclaimers of course are legendary and need no introductions. The crowd tonight is of very mixed ages, which is testament to their far reach, appealing across generations and over decades. This may be far from my normal type of gig but I’m really looking forward to them, and there really is a buzz in the air, albeit a rather restrained one!
Support – John Bramwell
We have an acoustic set first up: a stripped back performance from the inspiringly brilliant John Bramwell, former ‘I am Kloot’ front man. It’s straight onstage and straight into the performance, no nonsense. A hush falls upon us as a crowd as the vibrant sound of guitar strumming and the soulful vocal that accompanies it casts a musical spell on us. We are instantly transfixed, it’s really something special. There’s something incredible about an acoustic set in an atmospheric venue such as Parr Hall. The guitar playing is excellent, mesmerising, and the vocal quite breathtaking, filled with emotion. It’s story telling like a wise narrative, singing from the soul. There’s real depth in his voice, it’s clear, strong and concise, with the grating and gnarling throatiness that conveys true feeling. John is very watchable and likeable, interacting brilliantly with the audience – very witty and jovial and anecdotal. His stage presence is immense, it’s almost like he has an aura of creativity around him -those silver locks he discusses proudly are illuminated by the lights, adding an ethereal feel. The sound is of many influences: I can detect country, folk, indie, with real 60s vibes coming through, and in some songs that epic, western movie soundtrack feel. Such a moving and fascinating performance…he jokes that he has us eating from his palm – in actual fact we are!
On the whole a very heart warming, eclectic feel; ‘summer of love’ feels in the newer material, real Mamas and Papas type sound, it’s very evocative. A truly wonderful voice that filled this venue tonight and captivated one and all. I look forward to seeing John Bramwell again, for me that’s a must, and I would advise anyone to go see him live, you‘ll get one excellent and spellbinding set. I’m very happy. Thank you.
Headline – The Proclaimers
In darkness the applause, albeit very polite, is deafening. The lights go up and our headliners are in situ on stage. The set begins and a sound wall of guitar-fuelled, musical magic begins building, steady beats, driving bass lines, keys…then that instantly recognisable, delectable, Scottish vocal… bang – it’s begun! It’s unmistakable: those voices, that Caledonian identity; it’s brilliant. Both Charlie and Craig are on form and encourage clapping, which the crowd readily participate in, swaying in their seats. In all honesty these guys sound as good tonight as they did decades ago when they broke out into mainstream music. It’s a lovely, happy, sing along feel, inclusive, enveloping. It feels like some cosy Celtic pub sing along where all are welcome, but on a theatrical scale. It’s a real trip down memory lane, the nostalgia is flowing. Love them or loathe them…we all know the songs and probably all the words too! It’s difficult to remain seated, it’s toe tapping. I’m amazed everyone is still seated. One fan however obviously can’t contain her enthusiasm – she’s on the side line. up the front, dancing away, singing her heart out and beaming with delight. It’s a joy to see – she’s in her element and the band show their appreciation by giving her the odd wave and thumbs up.
The guys put so much energy and enthusiasm themselves into this performance that it’s impossible not to love it. Musically it’s very tight, clean and totally on point. This mixture of anthemic folk/country/indie…dare I say even punk/rock at times? is one hell of a sound that still feels as fresh and current today as it did 35 years ago. The ‘feel good’ and genuineness of each song, with simple themes and values have become like Scottish folk lore. The sound is so serotonin fuelling, those unforgettable guitar riffs, that foot stomping, bass drum sound… reminiscent of a Brave Heart war drum. Keys, driving bass and in some tracks the addition of a penny whistle and flute – it’s all so Celtic feeling, but with an indie edge. The twins cite punk as a heavy influence, which can often be detected. It’s no accident there is such a Scottish identity to this sound. Twins Craig and Charlie hail from Leith/Edinburgh and the themes of much of their back catalogue are about or inspired by life in Scotland. The exaggerated Scottish accent in the vocal was a deliberate thing, the guys wanted it to reflect their rich Scottish heritage, which works so well it’s stood the test of time! Let’s not forget the genius and witty lyrics too, often politically driven, Scottish nationalism being a huge theme, but for example ‘Letter from America’ is about unemployment. The themes run deep when examined; it’s very cleverly and poignantly done, and of course ‘Letter from America’ is THE song that finally gets this crowd on its feet, and my God, is it going off now… foot stomping, clapping, people belting the lyrics out, dancing and swaying. It feels electric.
As the hits are played, each one seemingly better than the last, it’s reached fever pitch. There was no barrier tonight, being all seated, so now crowd members have spilled into the photo pit area and are dancing right up to stage edge – led by no other than our brilliant dancing fan, who hasn’t stopped dancing from the first song. Jill Robinson, who’s travelled from Todmorden tonight, is one super fan and her energy is infectious. She managed to get as close to a moshpit going that was possible in this all seated event. As the set ends the crowd give thunderous applause and when the guys reappear for the encore it explodes. The photo pit is now packed, people have come down from the balcony to join in – and when the first bars of ‘I’m gonna be/500 miles’ begin to play it’s like a seismic shift! It’s musical mayhem, such a well loved song, an anthem no less, Just hearing it in a DJ set at functions is enough to cause floor filling and all out dancing, so to be here, inches away from the guys performing it live, is really something I shan’t ever forget.
Brilliant night, from civilised and rather laid back tame crowd beginnings to an all out dancing celebration, this band cracked it…impossible to stay seated whilst watching the Proclaimers! It was lovely to see that the guys gave a set list to our enthusiastic dancing legend, Jill Robinson, they clearly appreciate her energy! I say: Carry on dancing, Jill, you were a pleasure to be around and the night belongs, I feel, to you…and to the Proclaimers…Hats off, you guys ‘still got it in droves!’ A really incredible night, huge thanks x
2/ OVER AND DONE WITH
3/ THERE’S A TOUCH
5/ LETS GET MARRIED
6/ WHAT MAKES YOU CRY
7/ STREETS OF EDINBURGH
8/ BORN INNOCENT
9/ CAP IN HAND
10/ IN RECOGNITION
11/ HATE MY LOVE
12/ LETTER FROM AMERICA
13/ LIFE WITH YOU
14/ ANGRY CYCLIST
15/ SPINNING AROUND IN THE AIR
16/ SKY TAKES THE SOUL
17/ SEAN 18/ UNKNOWN
19/ SUNSHINE ON LEITH
20/ THEN I MET YOU
21/ IM ON MY WAY
22/ IM GONNA BE (500 MILES) ENCORE
23/ MAKE MY HEART FLY
24/ THE JOYFUL KILMARNOCK BLUES
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I’ve loved music since forever. Graphic designer, photographer and artist at painted.papillon.smile (www.ppsdesign.co.uk)