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OOTB 14 – 31 Jan 2002

A more experimental Thursday night than most saw the performers pushing those pop boundaries ever further.  No less than three stringed instruments (2 violins, cello) made their appearance with three different acts, and varied the sound in a most pleasing manner.  The vast bulk that is the OOTB house keyboard was also used twice, which I think is a record.

Jim and I played a couple of our own songs to get things going, then came Scott Reilly, sporting a very dapper purple crushed velvet shirt.  He’d changed his set from last week, but the style was pure Scott, a sound of aching loneliness set somewhere between Edinburgh and Kentucky.  New songs (to me, at any rate) included “This House Ain’t big enough For The Both Of Us” and a brilliant minimal blues called I think “My Baby Left Me Last Night”.  As Scott said himself, his voice and guitar playing have improved a fair bit of late, and this despite not having the Devil tune his guitar at a crossroads at midnight.  And, to show that songwriters are not always gloomy depressing people without a sense of humour, Scott stopped his last song halfway through, and explained that the chorus came next, but as we’d already heard it before, we could imagine what it sounded like.  I demand that the relevant authorities record this man in a £10, 000 a day studio now.

Next up were a male/female duo called The Abrahams (Rick and Joanna), new to OOTB, but who have been playing together for over a year.  Keyboard, guitar, violin, backing vocals and sharing of main vocal duties ensured that their sound was always intriguingly changing.  I particularly liked the rolling, bassy left-hand part on the piano that was employed by Joanna in one song, and the violin and guitar combination worked very well too, I thought.  To do them justice, we’d probably need a grand piano and about 10 mics, but their sound was original and interesting nonetheless, and I certainly want to hear them at OOTB again.

Someone whom I was also glad I could hear again was Riley, this time djembe-less without his percussion partner Ian.  I can’t remember 3/4 time ever sounding as good as it does on “You Don’t Even Know What You Do”, a beautiful, fragile country-tinged waltz around a broken heart.  The more up tempo “Older Women” came next, a topic not too often touched upon in song writing, but which in this case makes for that best of juxtapositions, an intelligent pop song.  The more haunting “Love Is A Word” finished the set, and as well as the customary great singing and lyrics, also had some very fine picked guitar playing.  I’ve been singing the song ever since, it’s seeped into my brain juices and won’t go away.  If this man isn’t recorded in the same studio as Scott soon, then I’m writing to my MP.

Someone who probably doesn’t need that studio is Julie Dawid, as she’s putting together a CD of her own.  Back from her trip to London, she brought with her a cello, of all things, plus luckily a friend to play it.  It sounded great though, played with the bow one minute and then the pulsing picked style of pizzicato the next, and set off the fine voice and guitar playing of Julie.  One of their songs was a strumming, Jacques Brel-ish number which I liked very much; it had a very “continental” feel to it somehow.  Julie invited me to play bongos on the next song, and then she finished with “My Fingers Strum Strings”.  I think that even in the short time that OOTB has been running, Julie’s singing and guitar playing has improved, and after this performance, I’m looking forward to what she can come up with next.  A guitar/tuba combo, perhaps?

Not to be outdone, Norman Lamont also brought his violinist friend Alison along to accompany him.  “Why Don’t You Come Back” also featured Alison on backing vocals to great effect, and “Crying In The Street” (one of my favourite NL songs) appeared in all its stark, moon-lit beauty before us. “Only The Sea”, (another song I like very much) was next, and what a superb rendition of it they gave.  Norman’s de-tuned guitar conjured up images of shifting sands and waves, while Alison’s violin was the moaning, spray soaked wind blowing over bleak grassy cliff tops.  The whole thing though, was infused with a raga-like droning, from both the guitar and violin, and combined with Norman’s Indian-influenced vocal, it sounded brilliant.  And to prove the point again that songwriters aren’t depressing fellows, he started the next song in the wrong key, then sang “I’m Changing The Key!” without missing a beat and promptly modulated the song, much to everyone’s amusement.  Norman has also been in the studio recently, so watch out for his CD when it comes out.

Claire has been to OOTB before, and is one of the few people brave enough to play the monstrous House Keyboard, kicking off with a song about a bridge in London.  “Beside Me Tonight” had a great rolling, bluesy feel to it, and showed Claire’s clear voice off very well, I thought.  One she’d played before, but which made a welcome return was “T.I.B”, not a song about her cat, but which stood for “This Is Britain”, a tale of repression of expression between the sexes.  Monstrous though the house keyboard is, it wasn’t quite monstrous enough for one of Claire’s songs, as she suddenly stopped playing halfway through and exclaimed, “Oh, it’s not big enough” meaning that the keyboard did not possess a full, piano sized range.  Rather amusing, but it luckily didn’t put Claire off.

Newcomer Tam was up next, with Riley helping out on BV and some light bongo duties.  I think the first song was called “You’ve Come Out Of The Sun”, and it was a very atmospheric song, slightly menacing in feel and featured some good dynamics which gave it a dramatic quality.  Tam’s voice had a harder, more rockier edge to it than the country twang of Riley’s, which meant that their vocals complimented each other very well.  Some nice guitar work by Tam on this song and the next means that I’m hoping he comes back to OOTB again soon, as I was very interested in what he was doing.

You might think that two of our staunchest non-performing supporters, Bruce and Graham might have won the mystery prize at the raffle by now, seeing as they come just about every week.  They think that too, but no, this week the truly splendid prize of a wooden recorder was won by none other than Norman Lamont who was overheard to say “You’ll regret this later when I play it on stage!” or something similar.

Joe was next, and played whilst stamping his feet at the same time, a feat of co-ordination never before attempted at OOTB, but which he managed with aplomb.  Some nice strumming and pleasant singing meant that Joe was appreciated by the audience, and as I think that as he just turned up at the Waverley for a drink, without suspecting he was to perform later, he acquitted himself admirably.  I think Joe may be working on some new material to bring down in the near future, so watch out for him.

Completing the evening was Tron stalwart Iain, opening with a breezy, up-tempo song called “Vodka and Red Bull”.  I might be wrong, but I don’t think anyone’s written a song about that before, and it showed his pop sensibilities at their best.  He finished with “The Kid Who Couldn’t sing”, a Bowie-esque pastiche (or rip-off, in Ian’s own words), about a kid who doesn’t like hearing his own voice through the speakers on stage, and suffers a lack of confidence as a result, but comes through in the end.

So, an evening of experimentation, string sections, high comedy, mystery prizes and sheer song beauty (there’s no other word for it) was had.  I’m certainly looking forward to what next Thursday will bring, but if you happen to be in London on that day, then Norman Lamont is playing at the 12 Bar Club, 22 Denmark Street, Soho at 9.20.  If you can’t make it but know someone who would like to go, I’m sure Norman would be happy to see them there.

And with that, I’m gone.  See you next Thursday,

Nelson

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