Wooden Arms album launch at The Octagon Chapel, Norwich, with support from Sam Brookes. 10 October 2014. Review and photos.
Fresh from a short tour of Germany and with a record deal with the Butterfly Collectors label, the magnificent Wooden Arms embarked on another mini-tour back home to launch their debut album “Tide” starting with a gig at the Octagon Chapel to tie in with the Norwich Sound & Vision Festival, for Dreams Music Presents. I saw them launch their EP in this same stunning venue last summer which was a lovely gig but this one was even better with a sold out crowd, the band now expanded to a sextet and garnering reviews and airplay nationally to handsome and deserved acclaim.
This glorious chapel is the perfect venue for Wooden Arms, beautiful with wooden pews and balconies, and with excellent sound, engineered by JJ of Festival Asylum, a sell out audience and film projections throughout by the Norwich Underground Film Club and very fine support from the impressive Sam Brookes.
This was my first time seeing Sam play and I was mightily impressed. A great voice and musicianship, played with much subtlety alongside his brilliant percussionist Rob Pemberton of Hot Feet, he was the perfect support for Wooden Arms.
Between Sam and Wooden Arms we had forty minutes or so of short films and animations from the Underground Film Club, some I liked more than others and I appreciated all of them but the stand out for me was a stunning noir-ish short story by Michal Winiarski entitled Guzik Ci Do Tego. It was a good idea having these projections to entertain during the interval for the stage set up and it was a nice accompaniment to the performances, well done to Alice and Beverley for handling this side of the evening.
With the stage set up and a draped stand appropriately making Milly look as though she were at a pulpit and Alex almost obscured by the huge grand piano the band sailed into a gorgeous set, confidently playing two or three new numbers, “Burial” being dramatically memorable, especially for the climax to the song which was almost surprising with its crescendo showing another side to the band and was all the stronger for that. Also aired was Mack’s new composition which was sumptuous. We were treated to a selection of numbers from the album as well as a few older ones including the debut track Separate the Verb. December was mesmerising, Jeff’s vocals in this setting having an almost palpable vulnerability and was quite a moment in the set. Having something of a ‘demons and ghouls’ day myself the sombre sounds of Wooden Arms provided an apt and beautiful soundtrack. A gloriously beautiful gig in sound and setting, the band sounding effortlessly tight and relaxed.
The six track mini-album itself, with lovely artwork by Alex Kozobolis, is available on CD, stunning clear vinyl (I bought both!), and of course digital download and includes December, Noah and False Start which have been re-recorded with the full line-up and sounds amazing, a band who it feels have now reached and realised Alex’s vision for it they are now armed and prepared to charm the country in the way we know they can. The musicians and singers are excellent, Jess on violin is so versatile and accomplished, Fynn providing haunting and moody cello whilst Milly’s vocals are strong and subtle at the same time and beautifully haunting. Jeff plays trumpet and guitar and his vocals on December are divine. Mack knows just when to be delicate on drums and of course Alex’s piano playing we all know about. Such a talented group of lovely people.
A few days earlier I also had the pleasure of hearing Milly play a few numbers in a short and informal set on a bill with the excellent Ben C Winn at OST. Milly was relaxed and in fine vocal form, delighting me with a beautiful Gentle Sailor as well as You are Lovely and a couple of others including her new song. Afterwards Ben provided surreal contrast with a hilarious set of songs and poems including the wonderful Laptop Dancer.
Many thanks to Wooden Arms and Ian Hudson of Dreams Music, and JJ for nailing absolutely perfect sound.
All photos by Richard Shashamane unless otherwise stated.
Words and photos, richard shashamane 2014 all rights reserved. Photos not to be used without permission.