BFR & Escalator Music Presents: Wooden Arms, Heart of a Dog, Cove Hithe at Norwich Arts Centre, 13 February 2014, photos and review.
This was a very lovely gig from some wonderful people and musicians, at the Arts Centre for this BFR / Escalator Music presentation. The evening’s music opened with Cove Hithe, who I had not heard in this incarnation. They instantly impressed me with beautiful playing and singing, with some lovely harmonies. For a couple of numbers they were joined by the impressive Daisy Vaughan, whose voice was simply stunning and very powerful. I’ll look out for this act again, featuring acoustic guitar, fiddle and drum, they were excellent.
Heart of a Dog were next on, and unfortunately there were some mic issues for a few moments at the beginning and we could not hear Sam at all but in his typical witty style, Sam at the end of the song said ” … all the best lyrics are in the first verse”! I think I’ve gotten rather used to seeing HoaD play alongside other musicians lately so it almost felt odd seeing them as the core duo of Sam and Jon but it was also interesting to hear the pared down songs, it had the effect of heightening some of the melancholy, especially on the likes of It Won’t be Long Now. The new songs are sounding amazing and I think are some of the best works they have produced.
Friend of the band, the very talented Will Bloomfield of Port Isla, has recently done a gorgeous remix of HOSS, which can be seen and heard here.
As Heart of a Dog appeared with a small line up, Wooden Arms’ appears ever increasing and tonight Jon joined them on drumming duties. He played so well and with great subtlety, which of course is what Wooden Arms are all about. I’m fairly sure this was their best performance yet, with the likes of False Start, Noah, Chariclia, and both sides of the new double A side single (for which this was the launch night) all sounding gorgeous and moving. Probably one of the absolute highlights for me however was December. Jeff’s voice is just incredibly beautiful and soft, and he seems to have no problem singing just as well in a live setting as he does in the studio. It was immaculate, and his trumpet playing was spot on too. Everyone played brilliantly. Milly and Jess providing some vocals that could have come from a heavenly choir, Alex perfect as always on piano, as were Jess and Finn on strings. My only complaint was that they were at the back of the stage and I was finding it almost impossible to get a photo with everyone in it, no matter where I tried from! As in one of their videos, Jeff and Milly exchange the guitar in a lovely moment, with Jess alongside her also on guitar they all look very cool.
Sam returned on stage to join the band for a lovely finale of Hits From the Shows. I think everyone would have loved to have heard more but the repertoire had been exhausted. Alex Carson has created something very beautiful with Wooden Arms, and all the members play a massive part in that. Thanks to all the artists for a beautiful gig, and the Arts Centre for being the NAC – one of my favourite venues anywhere. There was a decent sized audience too, especially considering all the Valentines events happening on the same night.
Heart of a Dog and Wooden Arms have two more dates on their short tour, Shindig in Cambridge tonight, ahead of the final date in London.
Wooden Arms new EP Tides b/w December is available from their website as download or as CD http://www.woodenarms.co.uk and they have also produced some beautiful t-shirts.
Recent single by Heart of a Dog – HOSS – is available from http://heartofadog.bandcamp.com
On the way home I popped into the Rose Tavern to catch the end of the Vagaband’s set – I was having withdrawal symptoms not having heard them play for many weeks! – who were playing an informal gig, which also served as a warm-up to their London date tonight. I gather that earlier in the evening there was a minor technical hitch with a cable or something during set up, and that whilst the steel pedal guitar was being sorted out, Fernant Zeste stepped in and played a few songs. I saw Fernant, from Belgium, playing at The Bicycle Shop supporting Hot Feet earlier in the week. He has a great style, big beard and a bluesy guitar and growl delivery that you’d swear came from some pine mountain in the USA rather than the flatlands of Belgium.
I only had time at that gig to catch a few numbers by Hot Feet but they too were very impressive and rather unusual. The vocals are dramatic, haunting and powerful and bathed in reverb. They come highly recommended by Guy Garvey of Elbow. Special mention at the Bicycle Shop for Matt Watson who was standing in as soundman and did an excellent job. It all sounded perfect, and once again the Bicycle Shop was packed out on a week night.
The Vagaband are playing at King Place in London tonight, The Seagull Theatre in Lowestoft on the 21st, and the Fisher Theatre in Bungay on 1 March.
words and photos, richard shashamane 2014