Grapevine at Bedfords, featuring Dan Wilde, Louise Jordan, Stromm. Bedfords Bar & Restaurant, Norwich, 5 February 2014. Review and photos.
Steve Howlett’s monthly Grapevine night at the beautiful upstairs bar of Bedfords this month brought us local duo Stromm and introduced two solo acts that I was hearing for the first time this evening, Dan Wilde and Louise Jordan. Steve introduced all the acts in his usual likable, modest, and witty manner.
Stromm opened the evening, tonight appearing as the core duo of Ross and Claire. I’ve seen them many times as both a duo and with a full band, tonight’s environment with an attentive audience was the perfect setting for their subtlety and intelligent lyrics. I think they have come on a long way in the year or so since I first saw them, in that they have a greater assurance, having played quite a number of gigs in that time. Their music is all about the lyrics, the harmonies and the melodies, with often a quite dark undercurrent to the storytelling. I’d say this was the best performance I’ve seen from them, performing with a confidence and some excellent guitar playing from Ross, who also has an impressive vocal range. Claire too sings beautifully and very clearly with a strong visual delivery. They also aired a new song for the first time today (Your Love is Alive), sandwiched between Smoking and the set closer. They were received extremely warmly by the Bedfords audience who really appreciated what they heard from Stromm.
Bedfords seemed especially full this evening, with diners as well as plenty at the bar here just to enjoy the music and the surroundings, and a lot of local musicians in attendance too. The second act was Louise Jordan. In an amazing dress, she had a lovely manner, all smiles and very chatty which endeared her no end to the audience, but her playing and singing were beautiful, whether she was performing her own compositions or traditional folk songs. The first was a Gaelic song which was gorgeous and was so lovely to hear, at times she sounded like a songbird. There were moments during the set where I felt I could almost detect similarities between Kate Bush, and also Joan Baez. About two thirds of the set was with her guitar with the rest at the piano. Some stunning songs in her set, such as traditional ‘Blacksmith’, which she introduced as her “angry song”, or “mildly vexed” as was suggested. Another gem that I have to thank Steve for bringing to me, and Norwich’s attention, again, the audience loved her. Her introductions were very interesting, as is her idea of folk music speaking about contemporary issues and updating traditional songs to reflect that.
To close this month’s Grapevine was another artist new to me, Dan Wilde. A singer and guitarist he also had a lovely manner with the audience, carrying on the running theme of the jokes about the amusingly named Sandy Balls in Hertfordshire that Louise had mentioned a few times. His guitar playing at times was exquisite and very beautiful, with his stories totally engaging. A very clear voice and articulate songwriting. He gave the songs just enough introduction and background to intrigue the audience and allow them in whilst letting the songs speak for themselves. A song near the end of the set called Want What You Get (from the album With Fire In Mind) being especially moving for me and made quite an impression, the songwriting gives the song great depth and really makes the characters vividly real, which of course they are.
You can read Dan’s tour journal here
A cracking evening, once again at Grapevine. It’s telling that the artists performing never fail to say how much the enjoy playing here at Bedfords for Steve and the Norwich audience, be they local or national, or playing for the first time or on a return visit. Steve hand picks the artists and I feel safe in totally trusting his judgement and already in the time I have been attending regularly he has introduced me to so much new music I probably otherwise would not have known.
Well done to all the artists playing, Stuart on sound for another marvellous job, Steve and Jan, and all the wonderful Bedfords staff. Fantastic to see the place full on a wet and windy Wednesday night – Norwich really does support live music, and I think the regulars all know they will get fine fare from Grapevine and Bedfords. Steve lays on these evenings with such a youthful enthusiasm and passion for the music, that and a lot of hard work and the fact it comes from the heart go such a long way to making these nights the success they are. He has a deservedly very fine reputation.
words and photos, richard shashamane 2014