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Review

Anderson McGinty Webster Ward and Fisher - Captains Rest 24/2/2012


"Incredible live experience"

 

Review by Joe Leightley
Posted on 2012-02-28 14:50:17
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Friday night at the Captains rest offers up a packed house and a packed line-up, thoughtfully balanced to supply a night of music which flows and builds to a fantastic climax.

First up are the Sarah Douglas band who start the night in competent fashion. A soft country frisson to the stylistic leanings of the act allows the songs to be inculcated with a certain languid flow which does well to reassure the audience but does not necessarily deliver anything wildly imposing. When the band experiment with a more strung-out sound, incorporating sparse but impactful effect-laden guitars they are at their most interesting. Some of the guitar effect and style references mid-nineties nostalgia bands such as Ocean Colour scene and in small doses gives intermittent succour to the rest of the sound which ticks over in the up-tempo songs.

Sarah Douglas herself provides a solid vocal performance and her relaxed demeanour and performance style greatly help to meld the songs into a coherent performance, even if lyrically the output is a little derivative. An admirable redressing of a fairly generic form sets up the night.

Next up is Tragic O’Hara who mixes strong solo performance with ad hoc accompaniment on keys and percussion throughout the show. Tragic himself coordinates the show with humorous and engaging repartee which gives a welcome individualistic edge to the performance. Musically also this performance imparts an idiosyncratic style and this serves to heighten the impact of the collected songs which draw from blues influences and are delivered with strong vocals and full guitar sound.

There is a natural feel to this gig letting the music speak for itself and setting the right tone. The accompaniment at choice moments drives the performance and the interesting instrumental combinations allow the songs to avoid stagnating or seeming too shallow in scope.
Layers and depth are added to the collaborative pieces through the rhythmic and percussive element which is driven by the Cajon drum. Originally a Peruvian percussion instrument, the Cajon here melds perfectly with the up tempo blues style and keeps the sound pleasantly indefinable and hence striking. A throat-wrecking version of The Beastie Boys’ ‘Sabotage’ is dropped and showcases more contemporary influence well, really hyping up the enthusiasm and energy. Tragic O’Hara commands the venue and produces a singular and unexpected sound.

The headline set follows with Anderson, Mcginty, Webster, Ward and Fisher (which for the purposes of brevity is more commonly read as AMWWF) taking to the stage. It is with great pleasure that I can say this is a band which makes the job of reviewing a joyous task. Having for years Summered at festivals and Wintered in various wanton music establishments, I have rarely, if ever, been as overwhelmed and enthralled by a live performance as I have been tonight at the Captain’s rest. I shall wax lyrical and hopefully some tempered word-smithery may replace what may otherwise be a string of ever more ebullient adjectives and enthusiastic expletives. Suffice it to say that this is a band who will instil faith once more in the value, vibrancy and magic of live music.

As media reports suggest that the leviathan music industry is being slain and we are accused of greedily sucking the blood from the beast, here is a band which impresses upon anyone present the fact that music has always centred around live performance, with the last fifty years of a ballooning recording industry being the anomaly, rather than the rule. AMWWF release independently, they are not part of the label cartel and they produce brilliant music; If this is the future, where bands are involved because they have to be, because they are beholden to creative instinct and motivation then let us tear down the ivory towers or record-shaped concrete follies at once and witness more of this.

AMWWF are a five piece made up of five fantastic musicians, three of whom are also incredibly good vocalists. Each member performs as multi-instrumentalist, jumping on the nearest instrument, be it double bass, guitar, mandolin, trumpet, squeezebox, violin etc. and with staggering aplomb adds to the perfectly balanced sound being conveyed. It is as if all members of the band are rushing to keep up with the creative flow of the performance and to produce such deeply communicative and blissful sounds. In the densely layered and beautiful ‘Pigeon song’ some way through the gig, as the band are all in the throes of performance, I am struck with a sense of complete transcendence. Without wanting to hyperbolise too persistently this performance could only be heard as the purest essence of what music is and what it can do.

The depth and profuse creativity of this musical grouping is highlighted by the shifts taken as the central vocalist. Three of the band members each take time to perform songs they had written or songs which are sung primarily by that individual and each time the songs are immaculate, through a diversity of forms. The individuality of the three voices, all startlingly good alone works so well in unison. Each singer brings a new style and new impetus to the band individually and in harmony with the others as the whole synthesis moves in unison. Sections of the performance assimilate diverse and intricate sound to create something so unique with every song. This may be the luxury of having a band absolutely filled with talent, all utterly flowing in the same direction.

To have three vocalists who all sound so fantastic and all sound so different is something which I have not heard to this extent before and enables AMWWF to have such a depth that they could seemingly play for hours and hours without losing their innovation, dynamism and powerful impact. This is a proposition which I am sure the packed venue of the Captain’s Rest would have gladly welcomed, with virtually no room to move there was an incredible warmth and interaction between the crowd and the band. AMWWF obviously have very dedicated fans and followers who engage with the performance, who are vociferous in their complete admiration and who seem to love every second of this bands performance; given the performance this is entirely understandable.

I am somewhat reticent in questioning the band after this gig, given that I was so struck by their output, and I am overjoyed by this fact. In a world which nurtures artificiality and the misconception that we should laud the untouchable stars whom we shall never meet, what a relief that one can be struck by craft, talent and an inexplicable sense of emotional communion. Star factor counts for nought when juxtaposed with immediate reverence and respect. If talent, substance and quality prevail AMWWF will be on the up and up and their live performance should be exported as far and wide as possible. If you ever get the chance to witness that performance, you must take it.

Joe Leightley



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