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OOTB 336 – 31 March 2009

Review 31/03/09

Tonight was no ordinary OOTB- as the banner across the stage proudly proclaimed to all and sundry, tonight’s OOTB was all in aid of Oxjam; this could mean only one thing: bring on the covers!

Rosie Bell – Rosie’s first is a wistful piano ballad, singing of “making a world of music”- Rosie’s lyrics are full of acute observations, and really engaging. Her second is a hilarious cover of “hallelujah”, castigating the plethora of performers who constantly murder what at heart is a great song: Rosie sings about “the critic scribbling ‘this song wrecked my night’”- quite the contrary in this case; Rosie sets the tempo for a cracking night.

Cameron and Scott (and the shaky thing from Ghana) – This duo begin with a cover of a song by Angus and Julia Stone (no, I haven’t either). It’s a real foot-tapper- the shaky thing from Ghana is certainly a sound investment. Really enjoyed the backing vocals at the finale; fine performance. Anyone could have been forgiven for expecting some sort of ZZ Top tribute on the second song given the matching black guitars; instead we get a cover of PJ Harvey (I personally breathed a sigh of relief)- another strong rendition, some tight harmonies, and neat guitar interplay on show- the duo brought a rawness to the song in its stripped down arrangement which may be lacking in the original. Good stuff!

Nicky – Nicky begins with a cover of a song by ‘Soil’ who are a really heavy rock outfit apparently. This is what a covers night is all about; Nicky really makes the song her own; it’s a different style to her original material, but the heavy rock chords provide ample background for her trademark powerhouse vocal. I can really imagine not liking this song in its original incarnation, however I thoroughly enjoyed Nicky’s rendition; perhaps not as much as our compere this evening, but I did so all the same.

Her second is just a brilliant concept: Bonnie Tyler sung as hard acoustic rock- I certainly wouldn’t have recognised this one, and with a bit of polish, this could be a cracking cover when Nicky performs it at the unsigned competition she’s in; best of luck with it Nicky! Now all together…. “I NEED A HERO!!!!”

Broken Tooth – Jim starts with a song that confirms a fear which we all subconsciously harbour…yes, ducks would given half the chance “mock your hair style, and sleep with your wife”. Definitely one very few will have heard before on tonight’s bill…ha ha. Never mind… his second is an acapella rant about “What keeps mankind alive”- this is almost a piece of acting; Jim really portrays the anger, with fine enunciation and lots of vehemently rolled ‘r’s. We saw a really different side to Broken Tooth tonight and a really entertaining one at that.

Out of the Oxjam – For the first minute or so I don’t think anyone in the band let alone the audience knew exactly what was happening- but the OOTO band gave us a fantastic country jam version of “Don’t Look Back in Anger”- it was a venerable Band Aid of OOTB stalwarts, with Broken Tooth and Cameron joining the whole jamboree on stage. The performance was infectiously jaunty- solos and dischords were added at each performer’s discretion, though kept on track towards the end by Peter, who sang the song powerfully- I particularly enjoyed the line “Please don’t put your life in the hands/ of a country western band”. A raucous romp through a britpop classic. Brilliant.

Hannah – Dusty Springfield on a ukulele; what’s not to like? I thought the arrangement on this was a really original idea; the sparse backing of the uke focused attention on vocal, whose purity and pitch gave the lyrics a real sweetness. There was even room for a whistle solo; again, what’s not to like?

Sam – I must profess something of an interest at this point because Sam begins with a cover of one of my absolute favourite artists, Ryan Adams. This was an unbelievably accurate rendition. If you closed your eyes, it pretty much could have been the man himself; Hannah’s backing vocals added a layer of authenticity to this Americana acoustic ballad “Strawberry Wine”. On his second, Sam shows great versatility in the vocal singing a Kings of Leon song (can’t remember the title), proving he can do rock as well as ballads. Another original cover, and another cracking set from two of the most exciting new acts at OOTB at the moment.

Calum Carlyle – Calum really enters into the spirit of the evening playing covers of OOTBers. He starts with crowd favourite “Gimp Boy” (originally by Nyk Stoddart)- Calum’s snarling vocal gives the song a nasty edge which was well suited to the song; as usual the audience joins in with the triumphant chorus. Next, we hear a cover of Nicky Carder- really interesting to hear this; although the arrangement was pretty similar, Calum gave a very different rendition in the vocal, less angry than Nicky’s perhaps, but it gave the song a different perspective. Calum didn’t seem too happy about his performance, but I thought it was a fine tribute to both performers.

James Bligh – I’ve not seen James play before, but I was very impressed by his skilled finger picking. Very Jose Gonzalez-esque. I particularly enjoyed his second which had a wonderfully ethereal ending. The vocal could do with a bit more confidence, as it was a bit quiet in places, but there’s no doubt the talent is there. Strong set from James, I hope to see him return soon.

I then took to the stage to play a cover of Rob Sproul Cran’s “Japan”, and “Build me up Buttercup” (not written by Rob Sproul Cran). This is what our irreverent host Mr. Calum Haddow had to say about the whole endeavour:

“Jonny Smells of win.”

One for the myspace methinks. Thanks for the fine praise Calum.

Scott – Really good to hear another poet at ootb, however this performance seemed a little rushed, perhaps because of the 10 minute slot. The material was difficult to engage with because there were scant breaks between each piece. Scott is undoubtedly a skilled poet and I would be interested to read his stuff – his material is peppered with acute observations, and there is a breadth of content on show. Next time though it would be great to hear a more ‘in depth’ set with fewer poems, which would allow the audience to really engage with the material. Hopefully we will get the opportunity to at some point.

Nyk – “Mr Sleaze” is a scathing character piece from Nyk – perhaps influenced by Calum’s snarling vocal on his cover? Interesting to see Nyk doing this different sort of material. Next though we are treated to classic Stoddart, with unfettered acoustic psychadelica. Class.

Anthony (debut) – Anthony may have been a wee bit nervous before coming on, but he delivered a confident performance. “Policeman” is a great idea for a song, with some fantastic lyrics; Anthony really paints a picture in the words, which are convincingly delivered. Unfortunately I didn’t catch the name of his second, but it begins with furious strumming, and sings of more conventional songwriter fare (broken hearts et al.); nothing wrong with that though! Anthony clearly has an ear for a catchy melody, and hopefully we shall hear some more tunes from him soon. Promising stuff.

Gerry - 21 April 2009

Gerry - 21 April 2009

Gerry – Gerry’s first showcases his impressive voice, with some excellent sustained notes, over intricate hammer-ons and pull-offs on the guitar. “I’ll take my chances and run” he sings. His second “Dogs coming in” is a rockier number, with a really memorable chorus. Again the performance is committed, with another strong vocal performance. A really enjoyable set, from a clearly talented performer.

Cameron – Next up, Cameron treats us to some heart-rendering original material- he sings of dying “by your side”, silencing the audience with a desperate tale of loss. His second is a confessional piece, which lends the performance an air of authenticity, as he sings about “the trouble with the straight and narrow”. A really engaging couple of songs!

A tense bidding war ensued for the final two songs of the night (which saw £12 go to Oxjam); then clouds descended, the horseman of the apocalypse appeared, a woman fainted…Calum Haddow had taken to the stage. He performed a swing version of “New Born” by Muse. I don’t really know what else I can say. You had to be there.

Cameron (returns)! – the joint victor of the bidding war supplemented his earlier set with a fine cover of “Disco 2000” by Pulp. I had never heard this done acoustic before, but it worked really well, and had the audience gleefully singing along. A fine way to end an absolutely cracking night at OOTB!

review by Jonny Pugh

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