There are no second acts in American lives but there are in Manchester gigs. Having missed Colorama supported by Walton Hesse at The Castle in January, I was delighted to find Humble Soul were putting the same line-up on again tonight, this time at Sacred Trinity Church in Salford. And each time I return to this 18th century Grade 2 listed church on Chapel Street, I fall in love with it again – definitely one of my favourite gig venues. It feels welcoming to me not in a spiritual way (sorry Reverend) but in its friendly cosiness and beautifully-lit intimacy. The warm feeling I was experiencing was also helped by the Starry Night cask ale which sadly didn’t last until Walton Hesse took the stage.
It’s been way too long since I last saw the band. There’s no dramatic change to their sound in that time but plenty of new songs tonight (and none from the six track session they recorded twelve months ago). And like the return to Sacred Trinity, there is a real sense of homecoming in listening to this band. Overall Walton Hesse were in a quieter, more reflective vein– no full-out rocking numbers – but they effortlessly moved between eerie-harmonium-and-empty-spaces numbers to the intense droning (in the best sense of word) propulsion and twin guitars of final number ‘Walt’s Eleventh Dream’. This was wistful countrified Americana guitar rock at its finest - I cannot understand why larger indies like Loose Records or Bella Union are not beating a trail to their doors. Walton Hesse are recording and mixing now and there are hints of a single soon to be announced – maybe they are going their own way? My only complaint - the low levels of lighting: see for yourself.
I’m a late comer to Colorama’s “Box” album – Edwyn Collins’ favourite album of 2010 no less – and its gentle pop-psychedelia charms. However any knowledge of that album or the earlier releases is not needed. For tonight Carwyn Ellis announces they were going to preview their entire new album live. Playing as three piece, it is astonishing how accomplished and finished this new material sounds – nothing tentative, no false starts, no scrappy mistakes. The versatility of the three musicians supported the variety across this new album. The drummer doubled up on melodica and percussion as well as backing vocals, Carwyn swapped between acoustic and electric guitars and for one song the band used a drum machine but otherwise the trio kept the same playing configuration. The real versatility was in how the songs moved between Dylan-esque folk rock, innocent harmony-laden sunshine-pop, mysterious and intense pop-psyche and even one song sung in Welsh about “going out on the lash on a Friday” whose upbeat cheeriness made it sound more like a skipping country stroll than a night of drunkenness.
Great performances from both bands. Is it too much to hope that Humble Soul could put the same night on again in another three months? Please?
The Set List: