Live review: Galley Beggar @ Liverpool Acoustic Live plus Shannen Bamford, and Alister Said View Two Gallery Friday 23rd August 2013
Last summer Galley Beggar played a superb gig here at Liverpool Acoustic at the View Two Gallery on the world-famous Mathew Street in Liverpool. In fact, they were so well-received that Liverpool Acoustic organisers Graham Holland and Stuart Todd invited them back for tonight’s gig. However, tonight was somewhat unusual as the Gallery had been transformed into an 18th century Imperial Chinese garden, known as Yuanmingyuan (or Garden of Perfect Brightness). This garden had been situated in the Old Summer Palace in Beijing until it was destroyed by British and French forces during the Opium Wars in 1860. This stunning reconstruction, in the gallery, had been undertaken for an exhibition about Yuanmingyuan and provided a splendid but unconventional backdrop to tonight’s musical performances.
Shannen Bamford at the View Two Gallery
The evening got under way with talented local singer-songwriter Shannen Bamford who played songs from her debut EP. Shannen played an entertaining opening set , and was followed by another local artist, Alister Said ,who is originally from Bootle.
Alister Said at the View Two Gallery – “Be free”
Alister warned us that he talks in riddles and he was true to his word. He is certainly not your average common-or-garden singer –songwriter as demonstrated by his statements such as “democracy doesn’t work” and “we are all victims”. Apparently, he lives by a 13-month calendar and his surreal philosophy is borne out in songs like “Who We Are”, “Bed Of Nails” and “Heaven”. He even performed a song called “Mellow Meltdown” that he wrote for a local clown, after which he left the stage, leaving a slightly bemused audience!
Galley Beggar at the View Two Gallery
And so to Galley Beggar.
I was eagerly awaiting this performance after having seen the band at this venue last year and I was not disappointed. Since their previous visit, Galley Beggar have released their superb, eponymously-titled second album. However, not content to rest on their laurels, their set tonight included a high proportion (40%) of unreleased, new material.
Tonight, Galley Beggar were playing semi-acoustically (ie. no electric guitars) but their sound was as powerful as ever. They can create a formidable “wall of sound”, even with acoustic lead instruments (violin, mandolin and acoustic guitars) , which is largely due to the robust but subtle rhythm section of Paul Dadwell (drums) and Mark Hammersley (bass). Paul and Mark lay down a solid foundation for Celine Marshall (violin), David Ellis(guitar) , Mat Fowler (guitar, mandolin and vocals) and Maria O’Donnell (lead vocals) to build upon.
Galley Beggar played a couple of songs from their debut album “Reformation House”, namely “The Outlandish Knight” and “Sir Richard”. One of my favourites from their second album is “Willow Tree”, which brings to mind early Steeleye Span, with a sprinkling of Trees for good measure. This song featured some shimmering harmony acoustic guitar from Mat and David, as well as a superb solo from David, who must be one of the most underrated guitarists around. I even overheard one member of the audience describe him as “the new Richard Thompson”.
“Nottamun Town” is, of course, a well-travelled traditional song but tonight Galley Beggar did it full justice, with a vocal tour de force from Maria, Mat and Paul whose layered harmonies filled the entire room to stunning effect. Talking of Paul, he took lead vocals on his own composition (with David Ellis) “Daverne Lamb”, a powerful song about a dancer who falls prey to some unruly sailors, and which has the feel of a traditional song, although it isn’t. This song also featured the lyrical violin of Celine Marshall.
The new material was also excellent. The first of these was “Pay My Body Home” about the suffering of sailors on long voyages which featured some great raga-like guitar from David Ellis. Excellent stuff. The next “new” one was a superb version of Lord Byrom’s “Silence and Tears” set to music and beautifully sung by Maria accompanied by Mat and David on delicately interweaving guitars. The third new number was “Adam and Eve” on which the band stretched out on a lengthy instrumental section.
The final “new” piece was Galley Beggar’s version of “Jack Orion”, which will be known to Pentangle fans from their “Cruel Sister” album. Galley Beggar’s version was somewhat shorter than Pentangle’s but was, nonetheless, a fine way to end another great performance by this outstanding band.
Galley Beggar have all the necessary attributes for being a great folk-rock band, namely, superb musicianship and vocals, sympathetic but inventive treatment of traditional songs and the ability to write original material that stands head to head with the traditional. They have a number of excellent songwriters within the band and at least half of their repertoire is self-written, so they have a bright future ahead of them. Watch this space.