Gig review: David Ford @ The View Two Gallery
I was wondering why I love the View Two Gallery so much. Maybe it’s because it exists in its own little bubble of reality, detached from the hustle and bustle of Mathew Street below (“above the beaten track”, as Mellowtone would say). Maybe it’s because you have to put in some effort to find the front door and then to climb to the performance area up three flights of stairs. Or maybe it’s because that performance area is the perfect size for music events, being not too big and not too small, surrounded on all sides by thought-provoking works of art from local artists, and with a licensed bar in the next room.
However, I think what really helps my love of the venue is the quality of music that you’ll find playing there on any of the regular and irregular events that take place there. OK, so maybe I’m biased because I host the Liverpool Acoustic Live event at the View Two, but I’m biased for good reason, as the following review will show.
I’d never heard of David Ford before I was told about the gig. I added it to the online diary on the Liverpool Acoustic website then promptly forgot about it. It wasn’t until I found out the gig was sold out after only a few days that I looked up David on the Internet, and what I heard I really liked. So when I was offered a spare ticket to attend the gig I jumped at the chance.
The night opened with a set from Norwegian songstress Ragz who, in my opinion, can do no wrong. She enthralled the attentive audience with her beautiful voice and songs. Many people have already reviewed Ragz’s live shows and they all come to the same conclusion, that she is an amazingly talented individual who deserves bigger and better things.
Next up was Hannah Peel – “the meat in the sandwich” as she was introduced by David. Hannah’s set was a combination of traditional Irish and original songs, with one cover thrown in for good measure. This would have been just a regular set in the hands of the vast majority of acoustic performers, but in the hands of Hannah Peel it was transformed into something really quite special. She started with Bury Me Under The Almond Tree, a song inspired by a Brothers Grimm tale. Played on the pianorgan (Google it!) it had a catchy lilting style which perfectly matched her singing voice.
Hannah’s next offering, a translation of the Irish song about a man who falls in love with a pretty maid milking her cow, was accompanied by a music box. Yes, you read that correctly – a music box! The music box in question was attached to a mandolin body with electric pickup and the music, on a roll of punched paper, was wound through as Hannah sang along as if it were the most natural thing in the world! The original song My Mother Told Me was followed by another music box classic – this time a cover of Soft Cell’s Tainted Love. On paper it just shouldn’t work, but played live at the View Two it did, and then some! The final song was the traditional Parting Glass – “Good night, and joy be with you all” – and Hannah certainly left us filled with a sense of joy at such a rare musical treat.
If Hannah Peel was the meat in the sandwich then David Ford was the thick, tasty, wholesome crust, the kind you can really get your teeth into. For David’s set he performed his new album Let The Hard Times Roll from start to finish, and what a rollercoaster of a ride it was, showcasing the range of both his songwriting and performance skills.
For the opening track Panic, David skillfully built up layer after layer of looped sound on the music box, keyboard, resonator guitar, organ, tambourine, and electric guitar, to reach a magnificent crescendo. Making Up For Lost Time showed us that David is just as talented playing just the one instrument – in this case the acoustic guitar. Hannah Peel joined David on keyboard for Waiting For The Storm, a radio-friendly song that could very easily be a massive hit in the hands of Westlife or Ronan Keating.
Surfin’ Guantanamo Bay was a dirty, bluesy number which covered the unlikely pairing of surfing and the Geneva Convention. In this song David once again made good use of the live looping pedal to build up a wall of sound which at one point sounded just like a powerful, angry surfing wave crashing down on the audience. Brilliant stuff! To Hell With The World saw David move to the keyboard for a ballad castigating the cult of the celebrity and all the things in the world that frustrate him, but also containing the message that there’s hope to be found in love and the beautiful things in life if you only know the places they hide. For song 6 (the end of side one, as David likes to think of it) we were treated to Stephen, a song which does what songwriters throughout history are obliged to do – to document the age in which we live. In this case, the song captures a real-life story from the troubles in Northern Ireland, with the hauntingly sobering refrain ‘A piece of land’s only a piece of land, and you will not come home tonight.’
With barely enough time to flip the disc, Side Two of the album kicked off with Nothing At All, about how we never seem to turn out to be what our younger selves imagined us to be when we grew up. Another looping track using shaky egg, shaky box(!), foot stomping and hand clapping to create a driving rhythm to accompany the song. Sylvia was a catchy number with a chord progression that reminded me of McFly’s All About You. We were told it’s the only song he’s ever written with a girl’s name in the title because he didn’t want to offend anyone he knew who might happen to share the same name. Apparently he doesn’t know a Sylvia, or at least not one that’s still alive!
Meet Me In The Middle was another song with a memorable chord progression – a great song with a great sound, and some clever lyrics thrown in for good measure – wonderfully reminiscent of Loudon Wainwright III. At 1 minute and 30 seconds long, Missouri is the shortest song David Ford has ever written, and tells how a drop of water falling into the Missouri River could conceivably make into the sea, across the ocean and onto the shores of his home town.
She’s Not The One For Me was a rollicking honky-tonk number inspired by the love affair the British people had for Margaret Thatcher in the heady days of the 1980s. The live looping made a return for this one and enabled David to build up the backing track, including backing vocals, before launching into electric piano and guitar. Hurricane saw David back in a quieter, completive mode with a simple keyboard arrangement and the line that the album name was taken from – “let the hard times roll”. The final track on the album is Call To Arms, and David was joined back on stage by Hannah Peel for an anthemic ballad with a good, old fashioned repeat phrase.
After much applause, David opened the floor to requests, or ‘golden oldies’. And there were plenty of them from an audience obviously enjoying every moment of the gig. Requiem, I Don’t Care What You Call Me, Song For The Road, and State Of The Union were all met with rapturous rounds of applause before the lights went up and we made our way home.
David Ford was the true star of the show – an accomplished performer with more talent than you can throw a radio DJ at. This is real music that deserves a wider audience, and it’s an eternal mystery why the likes of David aren’t signed to a major record label and being promoted to the wider general public. David wore one of his trademark hats throughout the whole evening, and I take my hat of to Ragz, Hannah Peel, and David Ford for three blistering sets, and to Mellowtone for arranging the gig in such a wonderful venue. David, Hannah and Ragz certainly have lots of new fans after tonight, me included!
David’s website is davidfordmusic.com
For those of you interested, you can download a recording of David’s entire set from the gig here.
Let The Hard Times Roll is available now from backstreet-merch.com/bands/dford
Graham Holland is the owner and editor of the Liverpool Acoustic website, and runs Liverpool Acoustic’s award-winning live music events with local musician Stuart Todd. In real life he’s a Web Development Officer, has been producing podcasts on a regular basis since July 2006, and runs a number of websites for other organisations. He lives in Wavertree with his husband and their cat Xiao Hei.
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