The Vagaband, Danni Nicholls, Steve Pulford, Grapevine @ Bedfords, Norwich 20 August 2014
Once again Steve Howlett, promoter of Grapevine, assembled a mouth-watering line up of acts for this month at Bedfords. Arriving a little earlier than usual it was impossible not to notice just how full the place was, with all tables booked and a line of people along the bar as the artists soundchecked. It remained deservedly full for the duration of the evening.
“Big Steve Arlene” aka Steve Pulford of The Arlenes, and Shooting Stars was the first act of the evening, shortly after 8pm. I try not to miss his rare live appearances as he’s an excellent musician, singer and storyteller. I like his between song stories, jokes and introductions too, it always makes an audience connect with the performer and these stories were in turn charming, amusing, insightful, and at times sad but brought us into the songs more. He played one about his brother which I was hearing for the first time I believe, which was played to hushed and respectful silence, in contrast with the set closer with a hilarious singalong chorus.
I was introduced to the music of Danni Nicholls via Grapevine earlier in the year and immediately was impressed and fell in love with her confident and powerful voice, super stage presence and wonderful songs. I also saw her two fine sets at Red Rooster. Tonight she was joined by excellent guitarist Max Milligan, and the very welcome sight and sound of Dan Reynolds from The Vagaband on lap cajon. He’s been much-missed after an illness took him out of action and sadly also the band’s short French tour recently. His subtle playing which he seems to play so naturally and effortlessly was the perfect compliment to Danni and Max. Danni certainly impressed all present, be they long-time converts or first time listeners. The set seemed to pass in moments and was hugely enjoyable.
And so to the headliners, the mighty Vagaband, big favourites of Steve and myself, and by the sound of the rapturous welcome they received, everyone in the room too. They only arrived back from the French tour in the early hours of the previous day and tonight played with a six piece line up of Jose, Tris, Dan, Patrick, Ali and Hugh. Perhaps not at their tightest, understandably having only just arrived back from France, but it was nevertheless a beautifully laid-back and relaxed set, giving an airing to some songs not heard in a long while (Ocean, Sixteen Tonnes) favourites like Molino and Whistling Song, alongside new soon to be classics such as Town With No Name, and finishing with a rousing Gabrielle … the demand for an encore was relentless and they obliged with an excellent My Maria. I like hearing the band in these relaxed environments and it was interesting to hear a couple of re-workings in a highly enjoyable set with the band in playful mood and open to re-interpretations, I always enjoy these gigs … but perhaps most pleasing of all was to see Daniel back in the saddle playing live again. The smiles from himself, the band, and the audience said it all.
It was probably the fullest I’ve ever seen Grapevine, and deservedly so. One of the things that the artists and indeed the audience love about Grapevine is that it has a regular respectful and appreciative audience who listen quietly. It’s only good manners to do so, both to the performer and those around who are there to listen to music.Steve spends a lot of time cultivating an atmosphere which is relaxed and where music lovers can listen to great music in the perfect environment. In my opinion he has managed this with tremendous success and without needing to be heavy-handed in policies, just a quiet mention at the start of the evening for newcomers about chatter, which is perfect and makes Grapevine what it is, a night that takes its music seriously but in a very convivial atmosphere.
I’ve said many times how much the artists love to play here and they always say what a delight it is to play, the proof of it is that they return again and again. Steve’s reputation as a music promoter in Norwich is exemplary and anyone attending a Grapevine will instantly know why, and feel the love he puts into it. Once again he put on a brilliant night of music to a packed and appreciative crowd, very good to hear him get a rousing round of applause at the end too.
Many thanks as always to Steve and Jan, all the Bedfords staff, and of course The Vagaband, Danni Nicholls, Max Milligan, and Steve Arlene for a very special night of music indeed.
The Vagaband have an excellent new album – Medicine for the Soul
– currently available at their gigs, and online soon.
more pics to follow…
words and photos, richard shashamane 2014 – photos not to be used without permission