On Monday Odd Box Promotions brought us a rather lovely and intimate gig at The Birdcage with three sets of beautiful melancholia, provided by Miles, from York, Norwich’s Milly Hirst, and making one of his occasional return visits from London, the rather legendary Alexander Carson who was launching his new album Ellipsism.
Miles (or Mikey as he is known offstage) was a completely unknown quantity (to me at least) but was something of a revelation. Songs quite varied in tempo and it was the slower, softer delicate ones that actually hit me hardest though the faster, angrier ones certainly had impact too. The slower songs are sad, delicate and beautiful with clear, descriptive and poetic lyrics. In mood it reminded me a little of Jay Ducker or Matt Harding. A strong and enjoyable start to the evening with fine music and engaging chats between.
It’s always a treat to hear her but I haven’t seen anywhere near enough of Milly Hirst lately so her set tonight was particularly welcome. Starting at the piano she then moved to electric guitar and delivered a typically gorgeous set with songs of love and loss, ghosts and the coast, with Book or a Film sounding like it has had some re-arranging.
Some five years ago I saw Milly play the same venue supporting Wooden Arms and from the same spot in the room I experienced the debut performance of her song Mary. Next to me on that occasion was the much-missed Andy Sacre. We turned towards each other with expressions of “Wow!” mirrored on our faces as we were equally moved. This remains one of my most powerful gig experiences and is an indelible musical memory. We were both present again a few days later where she kindly played it again for my birthday at the Bicycle Shop. The following year she was singing it at Glastonbury. Every time I see Milly play I get lost in the worlds and stories she creates and her incredible voice. Magical.
Alexander Carson, or Alex as most of us know him, has a connection with The Birdcage that goes back a long time. He explained that he first performed to an audience in this very room and although I was not present at that one this was also where I first heard him and have done so many, many times since. He sounded in good form despite having a lingering cough which he said was affecting his voice on the falsetto notes so had to adapt the setlist. That’s not to say that on his choice of cover – Tom Waits’ All the World is Green – his sounded in any way like Waits’ voice! It was quite simply a beautiful interpretation of the song which also strongly brought out the melody and feeling. The rest of the set was a selection of his solo material from the album and older songs. Joined onstage by Miles on guitar, Milly on vocals and Jess on violin there was a special moment for a Wooden Arms reunion of sorts to close the night with a False Start. Alex then announced that the band would be getting back together “to do something” after a two year hiatus. It will be good to see them back.
A fine Odd Box evening in a pretty full Birdcage ballroom, it was quite cramped at the back at any rate. Thanks to Alex, Milly, Miles (Mikey), and to Conor for doing amazing things on his mobile phone sound desk to keep control of things, and of course Georgie of Odd Box Promotions.
Alexander Carson is a neoclassical, downtempo, composer and songwriter based in London UK. Carson spent the better part of 7 years as the lead singer, and songwriter for genre-fluid quintet Wooden Arms.
““Lovers” is a perfect blend of modern songwriting and classical musicianship.” – Line of Best Fit
“Sounding at times like an Irish prayer and others a bit Bowie-ish, but never dull or less challenging.” – Where the Music Meets
“The fragile vocals and piano playing are unmistakably Alex – a distinctive timbre and delicate working of the keys that always reminds slightly of Anthony and the Johnsons” – Outline Magazine