Live review: Liverpool Acoustic Afternoon @ Threshold
Date: Saturday 29th March 2014
Venue: The Baltic Social
Reviewer: Ian D Hall
The question should always be, “Did you enjoy what you saw at Threshold?” For anybody who stepped into the confines of The Baltic Social on the Saturday of Threshold 2014 and hung around taking in the true ambiance of daytime set of music, rather than the powerful nights, who gazed in joy as the Town Crier or even the Ginger Pirate as some started calling him made his way from venue to venue giving audible instructions on what was happening and where, then yes the answer would be to the question, “Yes, of course!”
To be the first woman on stage at The Baltic Social on the Saturday, to give the natural equality that Threshold demands thanks to its guiding inspiration Kaya Herstad Carney and her infallible team, is a huge honour. For fans of Caroline England it is no less than the talented song writer deserves. This is a woman who was completely unfazed when she appeared between Stephen Langstaff and The Mono LPs at the East Village Arts Club and whom nothing really can take anything from but warmth, a huge smile and the easing into a voice and act that melts the stoniest of hearts.
Opening her segment of the proceedings at the Liverpool Acoustic Stage and under the watchful encouraging eye of Graham Holland and Stuart Todd with favourite That Place, the set contained All I Need, the much loved Ginger, for which the addition of Ms. England playing the imaginary but real sounding of a mouth trumpet was a true delight and the surprise of a new track titled Pocket.
The fast turn-around nature of a festival is never lost on music lovers but in these cases it is needed, there is so much talent residing in the city of Liverpool and so much to get through that what makes the sets by the artists involved is their utter devotion to the set, they capture the moment and frame it forever on the hearts of their fans. For Caroline England’s fans they were not to be disappointed. This was special, the afternoon started to buzz early and all because Caroline England takes great care to raise an early smile on all who made their way to the venue.
Three Minute Hero
What would Liverpool be without its social commentary, the opinions of those that arguably matter a lot more than the square mile of gilded refrain and occasional hot air of Westminster? The power house and the bridge between the North of England, Ireland and New York is one that sees music thrive at least in its true form because its audience understands that everybody deserves a voice. This is no less true than the vocal engagements and quietly, stealthy rawness employed by Stuart Todd, also known as Three Minute Hero.
The clandestine never sits well so as in true subversive style, the message he stands and sings of is one that you cannot help but love, the significance not lost on anybody in the audience of The Baltic Social and in true Liverpool style he delivered a sat of songs so strong, so well-pitched that Angels started fearing for their jobs and organised a strike committee. This is not to say that the voice was a heavenly as one the assassins of the abstract but the message he bore throughout was one in which they perhaps feared.
None so more was this set framed for all its worth than in the songs 173 and Blonde Boy Johnson. The first for the note of sarcasm gently employed in just slightly undoing the theory that everybody wants to live for ever, what is the point in living that long if you cannot live completely! The radical nature of a teenager, the comfortable application of subjecting yourself to a noble cause in your 40s and 50s are all undone if a hundred years later all you are doing is wasting away in perpetual boredom; nothing seems to fit in your life anymore but fast-fading memories.
Blonde Boy Johnson was, as should be expected a hearty applauded song in which the subject of the tracks was ridiculed and teased without mercy and rightly so, for again what is the point in carrying an opinion if you aren’t going to deploy it, safer to highlight and scorn than to wage war on a country 3,000 miles away and much more fun to listen to on sunny spring day.
Other tracks performed by Three Minute Hero in his set were Dance Like A Star, Piece of the Action, the beautiful Let My Heart Down and the gentle mocking of Happy Hour Sunrise. This was music in which to wallow amongst, to let images waft over you gently but also to inspire you to think, Three Minute Hero has more than in his arsenal to make you believe in a different tune.
You cannot help but admire the artist known as SheBeat. In terms of playing guitar she hasn’t been around all that long but anybody who can cut their teeth musically at the Ian Prowse Monday Night Club, who can turn a Beatles classic and make it have a completely different feel, almost invert into a melancholic beauty surely should at least be appreciated as well as admired.
SheBeat may have been quiet of late; life it seems can do that a person and put obstacles in the way in which they never imagined but the trick is to always keep a wary eye out for them and when they start interfering with things that you love doing then it’s time to step back and get to hammering life again. SheBeat recognised this and like the well thought of woman that she is, she hammered life back hard and in an entertaining set in the Liverpool Acoustic Stage of Threshold 2014, the bad effects of life surrendered.
With the song Mine and the emotive Freaky Ex being played early in the set, the addition of a new track called Rain Proof made sure that all those who were in attendance at The Baltic Social knew they were watching something rather cool and inspirational.
The inverted melancholy of She Loves You by The Beatles followed and hearing this song in the environment of a closed building rather than the sunshine packed courtyard of The BlueCoat did something extra to the meaning of the song. This is where the artist realises that to play a cover is acceptable but it needs new breathe, the opportunity for change and growth in which to thrive and flourish anew. By placing the song in the context of an inside room, the inverted feel, the desperate longing of a track which is truly a celebration becomes something dark, sombre, a reality check on those in the sad situation of being forced into a relationship by others and realising that you just don’t see the attraction. It is marvellous and clever stuff.
With the lovely expression laden song Lonely at the Top (A.K.A The Monkey Song) and Always On The Run finding their way into the set, this was indeed a day in which to cheer on the beauty of self-belief and determination. SheBeat once more showed that it is never too late to ever step on stage and make somebody’s day.
When Norway and the UK, or more specifically Liverpool, collide, the artistry that seems to come pouring out like the water than finds its way past inlets and the fjords in a timeless motion of breath taking beauty, is surely one to sit back, take in and be astonished at the sheer grace and abundance of story-telling and music accompaniment.
Liverpool and Merseyside have always had such a strong connection with Norway and since LIPA started the connection has got deeper and more valuable to both communities. Another one of the success stories to have come out of both camps, the Norwegian art of recounting legend and fable tightly bound with the know-how of Liverpool’s industry like approach to loveable music, is Nora Konstanse.
If the start of the afternoon had been enjoyable inside The Baltic Social with SheBeat and Caroline England waving the flag for great music by women then Nora Konstanse, alongside Andreas Voie Juliebo on drums, Eirik Hansen on Electric Guitar, Marius Rekstad on keyboards and Andreas Molde on bass, took the evening in the realms of near ecstasy, the story telling mastery that seems to be so imbedded in the Norwegian people came tumbling out of the speakers and filled the Liverpool Acoustic stage to the gentle but wonderfully cunning heartbeat of the next generation of fans of acoustic powerful music.
The style and poise of the performance was very much in evidence as the band tore through a set with the speed of a Gazelle in full flight but with the beauty of a Red Flanked Bluetail or Muscicapidae’s plumage being adoringly seen. Even in a short set such as the one performed it was impossible to ignore the stirring passion that resided in each technically gifted note and in tracks such as Higher, We Are, All the People and the set closer Wonder, the future enjoyment of a full set being taken in by an audience somewhere in the city of Liverpool will be one to be keenly anticipated based on this set at The Baltic Social.
A cracking set by excellent musicians, the surprise in the day, gift wrapped by all at Threshold.
There is no doubting Alex Hulme’s panache and confidence for they are well placed, they stand like a grateful beacon of light shining in the distance to ship-wrecked sailors caught in the squall and fast fading of hope. The sound he produces is one that has been honed since first Liverpool Sound and Vision saw him perform in 2011 and his voice could gently tease the most stubborn of raindrops clinging to the outermost part of an oak leaf down and into the palm of his awaiting hand. Surely even at the age of 20 there must be something in which to decry? No, this young man is only going to get better and better and be seen doing what he does for a very long time.
To be included in Threshold 2014 is testament to the extreme hard work he has fostered upon himself in to which make the guitar almost seem moulded to him, like some rather pleasant Terminator who has found that playing music is far more beneficial to the soul than hunting down John Connor, the two don’t seem to be able to be separated. The Liverpool Acoustic stage in The Baltic Social had had the natural beauty placed up on its wooden heart, it had the creaks drowned out by the expectation of the next Norwegian takeover in the shape of the really fantastic Nora Konstanse and now in the late evening light that bathed the spring day, Alex Hulme gave the stage the air of buoyancy it craved, the ship wrecked sailors being rescued and sailed to shore upon the sturdy act of acoustic rock.
Alex Hulme performed marvellously, meticulously, brandishing a smile, a sense of fun to the occasion and perhaps the only man brave enough to wear socks on stage, forgoing the shoes in a rock version of Sandy Shaw unforgettable entrance to the world of music. His music flowed like a well ordered camel train winding its way through the desert and his confidence grew then so the songs took on a life of their own. Climb, his latest single, was a great start and by the time he played tracks such as Run Rabbit Run, Fight and Forest, Alex Hulme was in the mood to get down off the stage and give the diners, the drinkers and the Saturday evening go getters a taste of where he naturally comes from and played the well-received song All That I Had.
The evening sunlight had died just a little by the end of his set but all in the audience had been enthused with the delight and charisma of the man before them taking his well-deserved bow.
A fantastic addition to Threshold 2014.
In a not so former life, Kevin Critchley was someone you had to find, almost hunt down with anticipated musical pleasure to get to hear perform. Things move on, tides change as regularly as the passing of the moon over the Mersey on a clear night but the one thing that hasn’t changed is when you get the chance to hear Kevin Critchley play, you grab it with both hands, diminish your heartbeat rate briefly then run headlong into the musical storm headfirst, letting the crafted hailstorm like approach of notes bombarded you again and again.
As the final act inside The Baltic Social in what had been an extremely pleasurable six hours for the Liverpool Acoustic stage, Kevin Critchley was the unmeasurable joy that waited many in the day’s set of slots. This is a man who can make music seem as though you are listening to the sound of flickering suggestions of many lives lived, of traces of a thousand uncensored heartbeats plucking away like a violin being heard in an echo chamber, moment after moment. It makes the hair stand on end just hearing the lyrics to his songs and with a new album due out later in the year, Kevin Critchley and his musical cohorts, Alex Williams on drums, Graeme Runeckles on bass and Wei Ping Wee, gave the crowd a brief taster of what to expect from this new look band.
If the six songs on offer were anything to go by, what follows on later should be of such importance that yet again the musical landscape will be affected and that can only be good as always for the once and always Capital of Culture. The sound of songs such as Brother, Whisper Your Name, Masks, the excellent Saboteur and Ghosts are songs in which to start relishing hearing again, with the track As I Disappear you should already be planning to make another space in the CD collection and perhaps a small placard underneath it for the ease of finding, cause it’s going to be played a lot.
Things do change; sometimes the sadness of one set of talented musicians going separate ways is enough to make you despondent, perhaps even melancholic but from the ashes always comes hope and for Kevin Critchley that hope has just reignited a big flame.
© 2014 Ian D Hall – Liverpool Acoustic & Liverpool Sound and Vision
Also performing were Neildsy, Carlos and the Jackal, Chris Callander, and Tiz McNamara
Live review: Liverpool Acoustic Afternoon @ The Baltic Social
Ian D. Hall was brought up in Birmingham and spent the vast majority of his teenage years in Bicester, near Oxford. He grew up loving music from a very early years. In the last ten years Ian has written reviews for the Birmingham Evening Mail, Liverpool Live, Chris High and the University of Liverpool’s L.S. Media web site. For the last year of his graduate degree he was joint Arts Editor for L.S. Media and it has been his privilege to write on many of the arts in Liverpool, Merseyside, the U.K. and the rest of the World, having reviewed gigs as far as away as Poland and Canada. Liverpool has been his home for the last eight years and is without doubt the most vibrant, most cultural part of the UK. His love of music and theatre has led him to see great bands and plays, not just in Liverpool but the wider artistic community. His dearest music loves are Punk, Progressive Rock, Metal, Rock, folk and pop. Ian D. Hall graduated from the University of Liverpool in June 2012 with a degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours in English. He now edits the Liverpool Sound and Vision website.
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