Fred’s House, Stephen Langstaff, Bark Prelude at Grapevine @ Bedfords, Bedfords Bar, Norwich 1 April 2015
Another high-calibre line up for April’s Grapevine with Bark Prelude opening for Stephen Langstaff and headliners the wonderful Grapevine regulars Fred’s House.
As a good friend remarked to me on the night, there was a running theme of honesty amongst all the performers and the songwriting, which was very true. The songwriting of Bark Prelude’s Philip is highly articulate, honest and tender as are his introductions to them. Joined tonight for three numbers by brilliant violinist Fran Broady, the strings give an extra dimension and added depth to the songs, with a hauntingly beautiful quality. Philip seems to play effortlessly and has a clear and pure voice perfect to follow the storytelling of his warm songs, all of which sounded gorgeous. We heard a few new ones including Light of Winter as well as stories in tribute to Norfolk (Move Away from London) and the marvellously well-written song Death on the Riverbank.
I’d heard incredibly positive things about the next artist, Liverpool’s Stephen Langstaff, including “The next Ed Sheeran” and judging by the size of the crowd tonight there was a lot of interest as some “emergency seating” had to be added near the front. I can see the comparison in style and Stephen is another with a purity and ease to his singing, with a good range, but again I think what really captured me was the songwriting and his openness both in the songs themselves and the introductions to them. It was carried off with some good humour too with plenty of laughter from both the stage and the audience. I think he charmed everyone and there was a lovely singalong for Domino too.
Fred’s House are a lovely band whom I’ve seen several times before at Grapevine as well as last year’s Red Rooster Festival. They play a beautiful almost hippie-pop folk with glorious harmonies, melodies, voices, playing and – once again – storytelling. I well remember hearing Grown Up a Little last year at Grapevine, from the Bonnie & Clyde album and Victoria’s very open introductory personal background to the story. It’s another piece of lovely songwriting maintaining just the right tone of mood. It felt like the set passed by in a flash I was enjoying it so much but we were treated to many favourites including Bonnie & Clyde itself, new single Shut Up and Dance, and an excellent cover of Neil Young’s Old Man.
Once again a special and lovely Grapevine with a good sound in a lovely, relaxed and friendly venue, the place was rammed and the appreciation at the end loud, prolonged and with as much honesty and sincerity as all the artists showed too.
Many thanks to Fred’s House, Stephen Langstaff, Bark Prelude (Philip and Fran), Steve and Jan, Dickie, and all at Bedfords Bar.
words and photos, richard shashamane 2015