Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Pity the poor opening act. A hot upstairs room at Dulcimer was filled with the hubbub of chat rather than the quiet appreciation of the solitary musician kicking off tonight’s triple bill. Those paying James Kelly some attention were richly rewarded however. Since I saw him last (at this same venue) he’s added some gorgeously soft and wistful melodic tunes alongside his furious finger-picking and gravelly blues hollers. Definitely worth catching live.

The last time I saw Gabriel Minnikin he looked more like a Hells Angel biker spoiling for a fight – white vest, heavily tattooed biceps and forearms, aviator shades, stern black cap. Tonight rather than menace he looked slimmer, softer and was clean shaven – rather than growling menace he conveyed laid-back conviviality. And rather than sparse bluegrass tonight’s set was unashamedly honky-tonk country (“here’s a country song” joked Gabriel; everyone got the joke). Backed by a four piece band – the Walton Hesse rhythm section, Chris Hillman (not that one) on pedal steel and a cowboy-booted guitarist called Adrian – the set included a John Prine cover and a duet with Jo Rose. Mancunian Americana out in force tonight and to excellent effect.

Six months on from their last Manchester gig, it was good to see Singing Adams back in town as they can be depended upon to give a great show – even if in a smaller and by now very sweaty venue. Surely we can stop with the references to Steven Adams’s previous band now? Singing Adams can – and continue to show the signs of moving on. As well as songs from this year’s “Everybody Friends Now” album and a B-side, there were also three new songs, one getting only its second ever airing. The band opened with a trio of slower-paced numbers; which also allowed them to get the measure of the crowd: a strange mix of ages, some quite immobile, others more animated plus “drug clapping guy” to contend with. The playing was dependably assured and slick and songs from an album that has only been out six months already feel like old friends.

What also makes Singing Adams gigs such a warm-feeling-inside experience is the none-too-serious banter and self-deprecating moves alongside the super-catchy tunes: singing the first lines of ‘Giving It All Away’ in quasi-pub singer mode amongst the crowd, encouraging singalongs (‘One Hand of the Wheel’) or ecstatic screaming (‘Injured Party’), responding to some surreal heckling (“glass her!”) and of course despite being told not to, mentioning the football or using the C-word on stage.

By the end of this 80 minute set the highly jocular mood nearly proved too much to pull it back for final moving tribute to the singer-songwriter Thomas Hansen with ‘St Thomas’. But they did (“this is for a friend of mine who is dead” helped) and what a fine tribute that song is. There was a hint at the end of the night Singing Adams will be back in January. Let’s hope so. Dependable. Dependably brilliant.

The Set List:

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