Wooden Arms, and Tristan McKelvey (with Gareth Butcher) at the Cinema City bar for OST, 28 January 2014, review and photos
OST seemed a very welcoming, cosy and reassuring place to be on a cold and wet miserable January evening, especially after watching some dreadful football at Carrow Road.
Tonight the evening was opened by Tristan McKelvey, on vocals and guitar, and he was joined on mandolin by Gareth Butcher, for a quiet set of melancholic and reflective folk songs.
Back in Norwich after a gig in London the previous evening were the wonderful Wooden Arms, who were tonight without Fynn on cello but this is a band who seem able to adapt to any line up permutations with effortless ease. Alex was main vocalist on most of the songs, with haunting backing vocals by Milly and Jess, and of course Jeff sang lead on one of my set favourites “December”. He has a beautiful and soft voice, full marks too for managing the trumpet solo despite sustaining an injury to his mouth during a football match! Jessica was also present on violin.
I feel sure this is a band destined for big things, their sound is quite unique with some elements of classical, folk and baroque with cleverly constructed songs and excellent lyrics. The Cinema City bar, despite the occasional crash of plates from the bar adding unexpected percussion, seems to suit their sound well, all the more so as Iain Lowery got the sound spot on. There is a lot going on in the songs and some of it is incredibly subtle (Jeff’s guitar for example) but Iain nailed the sound perfectly and the girls’ voices sounded magical, haunting and beautiful at just the right level, Jess’ violin floating over was also gorgeous.
They took this opportunity to air several new songs and it is clear they are moving up to the next level. Some of the new songs sound fuller, confident, but also with plenty of breathing space at the right moments. It will be good becoming more familiar with these new pieces and even hearing them for the first time they sounded marvellous.
A lovely group of people they are too, with Alex’s introductions always engaging and usually very funny too which gives a lovely balance between the songs subjects and the interaction with the audience, who were all highly attentive this evening. Purely by chance a friend came in at the end of Tristan’s set for a quick drink, not knowing any music was being hosted, and I persuaded him to stay at least for a couple of Wooden Arms songs. He stayed for the entire set, remarked “What beautiful music!” and thanked me for encouraging him stay to hear it and enjoy the experience of this music he’d otherwise have missed.
Wooden Arms shall be playing a double headline show at Norwich Arts Centre on 12 February with Heart of a Dog. Tickets are £5 in advance.
words and photos, richard shashamane 2014