Saturday, August 06, 2011


The Manchester launch night for the Jonnie Common album started with intense discussion as to when was the last time we had seen Aidan Smith and on what stages (and did we really see him at The Ritz once?). Tonight he was “a guitar guy not a keyboard guy” but these songs about cinema complexes, silver pentagrams and cannibalism plus a Kate Bush cover (‘Army Dreamers’) lost none of their great wit or charm through the choice of second instrument. He finished with the pairing of ‘Song For Delia’ (“I wrote this about 40,000 cigarettes ago”) and a genius song of heartbreak and humour about being a songwriter man. What a criminally over-looked songwriter. And whenever we did see him last, it was too long ago.

Next up was Adam Gorman and Jo Dudderidge, two-fifths of The Travelling Band and co-promoters of this evening under their Sideways Saloon guise. Tonight was a repeat of their first ever gig night with all the same acts performing (Jonnie Common was then Down The Tiny Steps).

The quick wit of Aidan Smith was replaced with a more earnest but enjoyable alt-folk sound performed on just guitar, banjo and harmonica plus with extra guitar for some songs from Steve Mullen “the Nels Cline of Northenden”. If more serious, the friendly intimacy of the evening was maintained (although in the tiny back room of The Castle Hotel it is nigh impossible for any event to be anything other than intimate) and these spare renditions of Travelling Band songs sounded glorious.

Jonnie Common tonight had a table-top of gadgetry and wiring sat within a large aluminium flight case: keyboards, samplers, switches and Lord knows what else plus two microphones. Before he started, Common apologised if “this is too much”. The live drums from Pete Kelly sounded great and added an emphatic thump to the songs and the overall volume was noticeably up from the quieter acoustic sets earlier but it was a surprisingly short set at just six songs. The songs from “Master of None”, including the Lauren Laverne endorsed ‘Exit Stage Left’ (“mentioned in her Grazia column too”), were missing the subtle detail of the studio versions but their charm and melodic delights were intact.

An uncomplicated, unfussy but fun evening of contrasting music not overshadowed by the furnace-like heat of the room and not allowed to descend into a muso love-in despite the long-standing friendships and collaborations between all involved. Professionals and gents all of them. There are only 300 vinyl copies of the Jonnie Common album “Master of None” and by rights they should sell out soon – grab yours now.

The Set List:
Hand – Hand
Summer Is For Going Places
Exit Stage Left
Bed Bugs
‘Wet Behind The Ears’


Anonymous said...

Aidan smith was so good. Dunc le chunk should book him for the castle hotel every thursday

Anonymous said...

Agree 100% re Aidan Smith (indeed, why haven't we seen him more often) and The Travelling Band.

Jonnie Common on the other hand was an overblown load of rubbish I'm afraid. It's extremely rare for me to walk out of a gig (especially one of only 6 songs!), but I actually couldn't stand any more. Watching someone twiddling a few knobs on a board full of gadgets is a totally soulless experience. Not to mention the fact that the resulting sound was not really that pleasant. It might be very clever, but so's computer programming and I wouldn't stand and watch someone doing that either!