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Live Reviews

Live From Old York: Juan Martin, Chantel McGregor, ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Andy Fairweather Low & Wilko Johnson

By Published: November 5, 2012
No calm was allowed two nights later at the same venue. At its most basic level ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead can perform as the core duo of its founding Texan members Jason Reece and Conrad Keely, who have a predilection for swapping guitar and drum roles. In its current incarnation, the membership is doubled, which doesn't particularly restrain the leaders in their multi-instrumentalism.

Arriving in time to catch the opening act, okay, so Maybeshewill isn't a band name that suits the Leicester post-rock combo, but that was the only negative observation to make about these tightly rehearsed headbangers. Well, not headbangers, in the metal sense. This crew's body language is gathered from a very specific style, native to the form. Heads, and indeed, whole bodies careened and collided in time to each precise explosive emphasis of a scientifically accurate riff construction. The group delivered a curt, tight and concise set, descending from Battles, Trans Am and even Tortoise, with a hint of Mogwai's faster, harder stretches. The keyboard was questionably orchestral, but luckily it was equal in the mix, rather than overly prominent.

Somewhat unusually, there was a note outside the venue alerting punters to the extreme volume levels threatened inside. A rare warning for a rock club. Austin's Trail Of Dead obliged with a set that featured hardly any lulls in the jet engine scale decibel-counting. Not that it was bereft of subtleties; it's just that these were carried out on a greater scale. This was an older school of rock, with its roots in 1990s grunge. The assault was unremitting, but never slipped in its powers of engagement. Keely spent most of his time upfront on guitar, also tackling lead vocals, which had just the right amount of strained abrasion, mid-tour. By set's end, the band was passing around a bottle of Jack Daniel's, sating themselves and setting it on its travels amongst the frontal throng. It was that kind of evening. The final encore was completely genuine, as most of the band looked like they weren't planning on delivering yet another song. Ultimately, there was no escape.

Andy Fairweather Low & The Low Riders
Pocklington Arts Centre
October 17, 2012

Welsh singer/guitarist Andy Fairweather Low is many artists to many folks. Some fans revere his hits with the 1960s pop group Amen Corner. Others remember his 1970s solo albums. Some have caught him in the combos of Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton
, Roger Waters and Bill Wyman. This scribe was captivated fairly late in the day, as Low became the lead guitarist in trombonist Chris Barber
Chris Barber
Chris Barber
's band, replacing the prematurely deceased bluesman John Slaughter.

It was clear from this gig that Low's heart is now deep in the blues, and that he considers guitar soloing as being of equal importance to singing. He even felt is necessary to issue a warning at gig's start, just in case some punters had come along expecting an unremitting sequence of poppy chestnuts. Of course, Low still obliged with those old ditties, but his two sets were very much occupied with the blues. They were also well-populated with searing guitar solos.

Pocklington Arts Centre lies in a village around 10 miles outside York, and it clearly has its own scene. The gig looked virtually sold out. The theatre was quite small, with a cossetting acoustic quality and a punchy, clear sound system. All the better to frame Low's guitar sound, which sparked and smoldered with a barely contained charge. It was a king amongst amplifier emissions, and he had the playing fluency to match. The dapper Low chose to adopt the image of a banker, or maybe a tidier, disciplined type of science fiction nerd. Spectacles and skinny tie. No beer-spattered t-shirts for this band. But it still proffered an old school soulful blues, burned by smoking edges.

Low demonstrated a very distinctive vocal style, singing high, keening lines out of the tightened corner of his mouth. Perhaps Sting was influenced by him at some stage. Nick Pentelow was a major asset, providing saxophone solos on most of the tunes, invariably ridged with a captivatingly rough texture. The other members were bassist Dave Bronze and drummer Paul Beavis. The set ranged from "Bend Me, Shape Me," once covered by Amen Corner, to songs by Webb Pierce and Jimmy Reed, then "When You're Smiling" and "Wide Eyed And Legless," jack-knifing into a meaty "Peter Gunn" and the eponymously titled "Low Rider." Even if a song wasn't blues or R&B, the prevailing band sound adopted the stylistic traits of those musics. Low's governing personality and musicality managed to transform all of the material, even if some songs might have been too bland in their naked state. The Low Rider personality embraced all of the songbook's diversity, filtering everything into a toughened band sound.

Wilko Johnson
October 18, 2012

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