Norwich had yet another Saturday of countless gig clashes, most notably No Holy Men with their EP launch at Norwich Arts Centre, and The Sisters of Mercy with The Membranes at UEA, Wooden Arms at the Old Shoe Factory, and Steve Ignorant at The Birdcage but I chose OPEN for the Paddle Fast presentation of Steve Tilston, Milly Hirst, and Chad Mason. I’ve never seen the Club Room decked out with tables and chairs before but it seemed to work rather well, adding a sense of intimacy and respectful silence during the performances. It was an absolute delight to hear Milly like this with a super sound and total silence from the audience, the only sounds being various mechanical gurgles from the bar which usually go unnoticed but in this atmosphere quite audible. Alongside set favourites like Book or a Film, Gentle Sailor and Mary we had pin-drop acappella and a brand new song aired for the very first time, written with Iain Lowery as a musical response to poetry created by young people inspired by the WWI poem The Fierce Light, both of these were set highlights for me. Milly claimed to be feeling “rusty” having had a quiet year for live gigs but I found it just magical and was especially pleased to be able to enjoy the songs in this way and truly immerse myself in them. No other artist springs to mind who seems to speak to my soul in the same way that Milly does.
All the running orders for the sets were rejigged and it was headliner Steve Tilston who came onstage next, ahead of the loud party in the Banking Hall next door. It was my first time seeing him and he had an engaging, story-telling manner between songs and of course played the songs themselves beautifully with some stunning guitar work. Even when he did make a mistake he joked mid-song “I’ve been playing that song about 30 years and made many mistakes on it but never that mistake before!”
Chad Mason had remarked a few times before the gig that he was feeling rather “dickie” but he was so professional that he still played the gig and was flexible enough to play last and with an extended set in a way that one would never have guessed had he not mentioned it … until the very end where he had to literally run off stage. He was still witty, chatty and played flawlessly playing a few numbers each from both albums and continuing the World War theme all performers touched upon. He’s a better man than I and I salute his professionalism and commitment to honouring the gig so well.
After the gig I headed with friends to Jurnets Bar for this month’s Cave-In, it’s been a while since my last Cave so I thoroughly enjoyed it, and seeing so many familiar faces there. The night ended with a drink to salute the Paddle Fest success at OPEN.
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