Wooden Arms, Ajimal, True Adventures at Norwich Arts Centre, 3 May 2015
It seems quite a while since I last saw Wooden Arms but it was probably only in January, which was the last gig before Alex moved to London. We’d become quite spoilt with many local gigs from this fine band although I have always felt they are destined for great things.
At an astroturfed Arts Centre to open the night was True Adventures, Sam’s solo project and on the week of his debut single release the beautiful “North Atlantic Ocean” (which has the line “Everyone is moving to London … what am I going to do now?”) Sam had one or two minor technical issues with guitar tunings but it matted not and he went back to the other guitar and carried on with his wonderful storytelling in song. He sings so clearly and expressively, the lyrics are just wonderful. He played a couple of new ones too, one of which he’d written that very day and was a highlight of the set for me and was joined by a couple of Wooden Arms to splendid effect.
True Adventures’ new single can be downloaded from here and some hard copies had also been pressed onto CD with purchases on the night all monies going towards help for Nepal after the devastating earthquake.
Ajimal is an acquaintance of Wooden Arms from a meeting on the road whilst they were both touring and they clearly get along famously with Alex joining on grand piano plus Jess and Fynn on strings for one song. It was a truly mesmerising set, songs so delicate and beautifully tender stripped back to the barest bones. The NAC auditorium was absolutely silent throughout the set. It was remarkable and powefully moving. I think Ajimal also enjoyed it as much as the very appreciative audience.
And so to Wooden Arms, a band I’ve followed every step of the way in their short but ever evolving and ever progressing career so far. The line up seems stable and complete, the band exceptionally tight after an eleven day whirlwind tour of Britain and Europe and coming onstage to rapturous homecoming cheers and hollers, accompanied by an intro tape and visual projections. It feels like they have taken another step up whilst retaining their genuine and endearing modesty (coming back onstage Alex was saying how oddly surreal encores feel) Their incredible output shows no sign of slowing up either with some recent compositions alongside some brand new ones being my set highlights, with Burial being one of my many favourites with its dramatic and powerful conclusion.
There was a lovely celebratory air about this gig, the band pleased to see so many familiar faces in front of them, it being the last date of the tour, and the day before Jess’ birthday. They really have stepped up a gear though and I would not be at all surprised to see them breaking out even further; they’ve already had lots of amazing publicity, reviews and national exposure. They certainly have the talent and drive. This was a stage full of talent, with Alex in the middle at the grand piano, Mac on drums behind him, Jeff on trumpet, guitar and lovely vocals, Milly with her beautiful vocals, and bass and much more, whilst Jess and Fynn provide the sumptuous strings.
As always, the engaging and absorbing mood of the finely constructed songs are so well balanced by Alex’s superb wit. Wooden Arms will make you think, transport you to other planes, and always drag you back with fits of giggles and laughter between songs. Alex was talking about his ode to hometown Yarmouth, (“It may be a shithole but it’s MY shithole”) describing his introduction to it in Germany and wondering about the audience’s reaction if all they could understand was a raving Englishman shouting “Shithole” repeatedly! As I said, Alex will always make you laugh but he sure can pen a beautiful song too.
Wooden Arms also had a CD pressed for their tour, a limited edition live EP entitled “A Whisper and a Shout”, the band will now spend time writing and recording ahead of their next release and will be back on the road again in the autumn.
Special mention must also be made of the gorgeous visuals projected onto the back of the stage in rich blue hues with birds, a crescent moon, and shadowed violinists hitting the perfect note too, to accompany the at times cinematic soundscapes of the band.
Many thanks to Wooden Arms, Ajimal, True Adventures, and Norwich Arts Centre
Review and photos by Richard Shashamane (c) 2015