Dreams Music presents Dave Gerard & the Watchmen, Will Varley, and Mari Joyce at The Birdcage, plus The Anna Mudeka Band at The Lounge, Norwich, 25 January 2014, review and photos.
Another packed night of music in Norwich on a fortunately dry evening after a sudden and loud, sole thunderclap in the late afternoon. I chose to spend my evening at The Birdcage for the Dreams Music night featuring return visits to the city by Dave Gerard (Gerard & the Watchmen), Will Varley, plus our own Mari Joyce completing the line up.
The Birdcage was already fairly full when Mari Joyce started her set, tonight featuring the full, brilliant, band. The room hung on every word of these delicate songs played and sung beautifully. It has been a delight following the progress of this lovely band. They play subtly and are superb musicians – with the two Alex’s on strings and Iestyn on percussion who have a growing assurance in their performances, and the songs are just wonderfully understated and haunting.
I’ve seen Will Varley a couple of times before, once in this same venue with Cocos Lovers and Birds of Hell, and more recently playing marvellously at the Bicycle Shop as part of the Norwich Sound & Vision Festival 2013. He hooked me into his songs immediately on first hearing, and I had to buy his album, by the time he returned for the Festival he had recorded another so I snapped that one up too. He sings strongly and very clearly with catchy, pertinent lyrics, be it about politics, life, or any subject he tackles. He also has a superb stage presence and way of engaging with the audience which reduced them to peals of laughter several times. Thinking we were still in soundcheck he grasped the microphone, breathing heavily and nightmarishly saying “Mamma, Mamma, I can hear it. It’s on the stairs” continuing for a minute or so and then adding. “That’s a song about my first girlfriend!” So funny. I think I can safely say that anyone in the audience who hadn’t heard him before was totally won over, it certainly appeared that way. He covers more serious and topical subjects though, Dylan-esque at times but very much hist own person with his own style. It’s good to hear someone sing about the current government, also, Empire, injustice and exploitation are other recurring themes. He makes use of some clever wordplay, and like Dylan, I think many of his lyrics would work as standalone poems.
Check out his wonderful new video, below, and his very fine albums.
The Birdcage was packed and sweltering by now, humid and very hot and not easy for photos but it was still lovely to enjoy once again the voice and songs of the very talented Dave Gerard, who as well as his Watchmen was joined tonight by Jon, drummer of our own Heart of a Dog. A lovely, lovely gig.
Towards the end of the evening I wanted to see if I could catch the end of the performance by the vibrant Anna Mudeka band who were playing at The Lounge, another lovely venue with good sound. I was lucky enough to succeed in this, although it wasn’t the easiest place to negotiate being as it too was absolutely rammed full, and steamy with the windows totally covered in condensation as Anna and her band energetically delivered song after song of African, and more specifically, Zimbabwean rhythms which had the audience dancing with beaming smiles on their faces. The floor felt positively springy, such was the dancing and jumping going on. It’s amazing to think I first saw Anna perform at the UEA in the late 1990s. She doesn’t seem to have changed at all in this time and still has the same wonderful energy, I only wish I had seen the band more often over the years but they do sound very keen to perform more frequently, the demand is certainly there.
words and photos, richard shashamane 2014