Friday, September 21, 2012


I spent a good part of this evening trying to work out where the name Thugs On Wolves comes from. Or even if it makes sense. Nope I just couldn’t figure it out. However cryptic or nonsensical their nomenclature may be the Manchester four-piece are a delight on stage – twin vocal harmonies, twin acoustic guitars, acoustic bass plus keyboards and floor tom all mix into a dreamy Local Natives/Grizzly Bear vibe meets The Travelling Band wistfulness. They finished with two songs “only written yesterday” – the solo ‘Esmeralda’ and then ‘Jackdaw’ involving stop/start sections and complex vocal interplay. I’d already concluded Thugs On Wolves were accomplished but
to deliver ambitious new songs with such assurance... definitely worth tracking down.

Call Me Dan”. Withered Hand aka Dan Willson is looking fit and trim tonight as well as being personable. But alas he is full of cold and by the second song his unruly hair has taken on a life of its own. Coughs and apologies aside though this is a damn impressive and powerful show in the intimate setting of the upstairs room of the Kings Arms. Opening with three solo songs including the “not yet recorded” ‘Life Of Doubt’, he is then joined by his three-piece band (“I must thank them now because I never do in the van”) for the remainder of a set which intersperses heartfelt renditions of classics (yes they are classics) from 2010’s "Good News" with new songs – either unrecorded or from the forthcoming vinyl EP ‘Inbetweens’.

Introducing the title track of that new EP, Dan Willson drifts off into a tale about the boring bits of life but it just fizzles out. If he appears distracted or talks askance into the microphone between songs, the ugly beauty of Withered Hands is they are so direct, personal and intense. And when he occasionally stares out from sweat-soaked hair during songs, his wide-eyed gaze is fierce and unswerving. The fast-paced ‘bad gene’ song ‘New Dawn’ may have held back a little tonight and there was no ‘Heart Heart’ to allow for a suffering throat to recover (“good job it’s not the beginning of the tour...” It is) but this was a delicious masterclass from Edinburgh’s anti-folk maestro and torch-bearer of the maudlin and downtrodden. How, how has Withered Hand world domination not yet been achieved? The tour continues – voice and health allowing – to Cardiff, London, Sheffield, Newcastle and Glasgow. Do not miss.

The Set List

No Cigarettes
Life Of Doubt
New Dawn
Love In The Time Of Ecstasy
I Am Nothing
Religious Songs

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