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Lewis Watson / September 2017 English/Irish Tour

 
By on Monday, 7th August 2017 at 9:00 am
 

Oxfordshire singer/songwriter Lewis Watson released a new album earlier this year. ‘midnight’, which followed his 2014 breakthrough LP ‘the morning’, came out around the time of SXSW 2017. While I wasn’t impressed with his live performance at St. David’s Bethell Hall during our week in Austin, I hope all the kinks have been worked out with his performing his newest material. This past Saturday on Twitter, he shared a new tour for September, hitting English and Irish towns. I believe the tickets to this tour are on sale now. They will be followed by a few Continental dates before he heads back to North America. For more on Lewis Watson right here on TGTF, come through.

Thursday 21st September 2017 – Limerick Stormy Teacup
Friday 22nd September 2017 – Dublin Academy 2
Saturday 23rd September 2017 – Belfast Oh Yeah Music Centre
Sunday 24th September 2017 – Liverpool Arts Centre
Monday 25th September 2017 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Tuesday 26th September 2017 – Derby Venue (yes, this place is actually called The Venue)
Wednesday 27th September 2017 – Bournemouth Old Fire Station
Thursday 28th September 2017 – London Scala

 

Live at Leeds 2017 Preview: editor Mary’s best band bets

 
By on Wednesday, 19th April 2017 at 11:00 am
 

Please note: as we always recommend in all of TGTF’s festival previews, the information we post here on Live at Leeds 2017 is current at the time of posting. We strongly encourage you to check in at the Live at Leeds 2017 official Web site closer to the start of the event to confirm venues and set times. Wristbands for the event in Leeds on Saturday the 29th of April are still available at the bargain price of £32.50 plus handling if purchased online; VIP tickets are sold out. More information on where you can purchase your tickets in person or online is available here.

SXSW 2017 alums: Here’s a list of artists we either saw last month in Austin who we enjoyed AND/OR we previewed ahead of the festival -AND- will also be appearing at Live at Leeds in 2 Saturdays’ time. For your convenience, I’ve listed them in order of appearance on the day so you can slot them into your growing schedule. The best of the best are marked with an asterisk. (*)

LIFE (2:00 PM, Leeds Beckett Union Stage 2 [Dr. Martens Presents]) *
Ten Tonnes (2:00 PM, Chapel) *
Airways (3:00 PM, Leeds Beckett Union Stage 2 [Dr. Martens Presents])
Jade Bird (4:30 PM, Faversham Patio)
Annabel Allum (5:00 PM, Social)
Be Charlotte (5:00 PM, Faversham)
IDLES (7:15 PM, Key Club [DORK Stage])
She Drew the Gun (8:00 PM, Wardrobe)
Temples (8:00 PM, Church)
Lewis Watson (8:15 PM, Holy Trinity Church [Clash Stage])
The Academic (9:00 PM, Lending Room [WTGR Stage]) *
Dream Wife (9:00 PM, Brudenell Social Club [DIY Stage])
Slaves (9:00 PM, Academy)
Flamingods (9:45 PM, Leeds Beckett Union Stage 2 [Dr. Martens Presents])
Rag‘n’Bone Man (9:45 PM, Leeds University Union Refectory)
The Big Moon (10:00 PM, Brudenell Social Club [DIY Stage])
GURR (10:45 PM, Brudenell Social Club Games Room [DIY Neu Stage])
AJ Tracey (11:00 PM, Faversham)
Let’s Eat Grandma (11:00 PM, Chapel)

To add to the best 3 from above and round things out to a even 10 acts, here are an additional 7 I recommend from the fantastic Live at Leeds 2017 schedule:

The Gallery (Wakefield; 12:00 PM, Lending Room [WTGR Stage])
Wakefield is, of course, famous for being the birthplace The Cribs. But the Jarmans should probably get used to sharing the city with another band. The jangly guitars of The Gallery, reminiscent of Arctic Monkeys before they turned into Queens of the Stone Age, will take you back to the simpler times of British indie.

Wyvern Lingo (Wicklow, Ireland; 1:00 PM, Nation of Shopkeepers)
While already deemed national treasures in their country, most people outside Ireland have only heard of Wyvern Lingo from their association with Irish megastar Hozier, their members Karen and Caoimhe providing him backing vocals at live shows and the group supporting him on UK and Irish tours. Imagine the Staves if they’d gone pop and r&b.

Matt Maltese (London; 2:00 PM, Wardrobe)
It took Morrissey a while to be anointed the title ‘The Pope of Mope’. That said, given the current state of world affairs, it stands to reason that there should rightly be more artists coming out and telling it like it is without sugarcoating it. Piano playing Matt Maltese is one of them, coming out with the sweepingly beautiful ‘As the World Caves In’ to convey his despair. Seriously, close your eyes, and you could swear you’re hearing The Moz.

The Wandering Hearts (London; 3:15 PM, Holy Trinity Church [Clash Stage])
A stark contrast to all the indie and pop acts at this year’s Live at Leeds are The Wandering Hearts, an Americana / alt-country group from the big smoke. Recent signees to Decca Records, the band will provide a welcome midday set different from nearly everyone else invited to this event, with their lush harmonies smartly picked guitar.

Paris Youth Foundation (Liverpool; 5:00 PM, Oporto)
The return of Ride to the record shops this year proves the washy guitar wall of sound era isn’t over. Liverpudlians Paris Youth Foundation takes this and does one better by adding synthpop to the mix, lending an anthemic feel to their tracks. Having released their debut album late last year, this is still early days for them, but I reckon now is time to get on the bandwagon.

Tender Central (Devon; 5:15 PM, Holy Trinity Church [Clash Stage])
India Bourne is a Devon-born, classically trained cellist who now goes by the stage name Tender Central. It’s a good description of her sound, which takes full advantage of her ethereal vocals and her careful crafting of an equally evocative, all-enveloping soundscape. Take a moment and consider the thought of seeing such music being performed in a church. Got it?

The Pale White (Newcastle; 5:30 PM, Church)
While Patrick Carney is busy remoulding his girlfriend Michelle Branch, now is an excellent time to discover the band who will dethrone the Black Keys when they aren’t paying attention. While we can’t be sure their successors will be Newcastle’s The Pale White, their brand of down and dirty blues rock is a suitable North East alternative to that of Southampton’s Band of Skulls.

 

SXSW 2017: visits to St. David’s, the Velveeta Room and the British Music Embassy (Friday, part 2) – 17th March 2017

 
By on Tuesday, 4th April 2017 at 3:00 pm
 

I want to add another rule to those I presented yesterday as part of how I saw five bands in 1 hour on my Thursday night at SXSW 2017. Rule #5: take advantage of secondary or even tertiary shows your favourite artist is playing. Knowledge is power, and any research you do into additional shows an artist is playing will help you make the most of your time in Austin. Research is not just for the purpose of avoiding schedule clashes: smaller, less prominently advertised shows, especially those off the beaten path, are likely to give you the priceless opportunities to meet your heroes and/or to see them in more intimate settings. And if you’re anything like me (short and small) and have any level of claustrophobia, this is an unsaid key to keeping your sanity during SXSW.

For a long while, the only show Berlin-based Dane Agnes Obel had scheduled at SXSW was Thursday night at Clive Bar, in the Rainey Street area of the city. Unfortunately (for me anyway), closer to the time of SXSW, it was announced Clive Bar would become the Twin Peaks Showtime venue to celebrate the reboot of the cult tv show. Further, on Thursday night the showcase would host a very special appearance by none other than FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper himself, Kyle MacLachlan. Coupled with the announcement that ‘90s boy band Hanson would be appearing at Bungalow around the corner, it didn’t make sense walking all that way and to queue up only to be disappointed.

Thankfully, Obel announced a second show at the main room at St. David’s Historic Sanctuary as part of the Communion Presents showcase, which afforded her fans like me to have a better chance of seeing her and to be able to sit down while doing so. Many did, filling the venue easily and well before she even took the stage. SXSW was just one stop in her North American tour that had already passed through the East Coast the week before. I’m still unclear why venues seem to think throwing red light on their performers is a good idea. The celebrated Obel and her truly international, all female backing band were under a sea of crimson for her entire set, so I took a rare break at shooting bands at St. David’s.

Released in autumn 2016, her third and latest album ‘Citizen of Glass’ demonstrates the imaginative Dane’s commitment to defying convention in an industry where fitting in is de rigueur. With a flurry of instruments both conventional (piano, guitar, drums) and unusual (cello, celesta, mandolin) the unique performance was beautiful, especially in the confines of such a hallowed space. ‘Stretch Your Eyes’, which I reviewed ahead of SXSW, was a masterpiece live, exceeding all my expectations.

While there are two queues for the two stages at St. David’s, the main room and Bethell Hall, I can think of only one time I’ve been in Bethell Hall in the last 6 years where the place has been packed and they weren’t letting anyone in. In that respect, it’s a placid, infrequently visited SXSW venue hidden in plain sight. Good news for me, as I was wanting to catch up on the new material from an artist who had wowed me in DC a few years ago. Stepping out of Agnes Obel’s show a little early, I was able to catch the tail-end of another set here.

Bethell Hall is less pretentious than its name suggests. It has a recreation / social room-type vibe, and therefore it has more of an everyman flavour. While it’s not like I didn’t enjoy his set at B.D. Riley’s Thursday morning at the Full Irish Breakfast, there’s something very special about seeing Ciaran Lavery performing in such of a room. Think about where many legendary singers of popular music honed their craft: that’s right, with their families and in the church.

Ciaran Lavery, St. David's Historic Sanctuary, Bethell Hall, Friday 17 March 2017

With the acoustics of the bare walls of Bethell Hall bouncing back Lavery’s gritty yet gorgeous vocals and acoustic guitar chords to us, you couldn’t have asked for a better venue to see the Northern Irishman. Deadpanning that he would warn us next time if he was to perform another set of “overly positive songs”, he had the audience not only in rapt attention but also chuckling at his dry Irish wit. Ending with an incomprehensibly rich sounding a capella version of Tom Waits’ ‘If I Have to Go’, it’s not an understatement to say Ciaran Lavery slayed the audience at Bethell Hall.

Ciaran Lavery, St. David's Historic Sanctuary, Bethell Hall, Friday 17 March 2017, 2

It fell to Oxfordshire’s Lewis Watson to follow such a great performance. The contrast was unfortunately stark, as even though I don’t think the two artists differ that much in age, lack of festival experience (or perhaps lack of practice in recent months) showed in Watson’s comparatively lacklustre set. While I am very familiar with and loved Watson’s 2014 breakthrough LP ‘the morning’, I haven’t yet had a chance to listen to his latest album released the week after SXSW, ‘midnight’. Based on his performance in Austin, I’m not sure I want to. Maybe his latest breakup knocked him harder than he’s willing to admit? The one bright spot of new material was the wispy ‘Hello Hello’, in which he asked the audience to join in.

Lewis Watson, St. David's Historic Sanctuary, Bethell Hall, Friday 17 March 2017

Watson’s nervously chuckled assurances that the new songs sounds better with his full backing band and his asking us to imagine one song or another with a thumping drum beat implies, whether he meant it or not, that these new songs cannot stand on their own in their original form in which they were written. Further, while I completely understand the prohibitive travel and visa costs involved in bringing a full band over from England to America, one wonders why Watson appeared at SXSW solo at all, when a North American tour with his band was already in the works for later in the spring. It’s also hard to overlook that he broke not one, but two strings in the middle of his set. Chalk it all up to nerves or unpreparedness, but I was sorely disappointed.

After a quick brisket and coleslaw break and a gawk at and a farewell wave to the hordes already queued up to see Rag’n’Bone Man’s show in St. David’s main room at 1 AM, I headed back down to 6th Street. It was St. Patrick’s Day, so a visit to The Velveeta Room’s Music from Ireland showcase was definitely in order. (Sadly, there was not even time for a Guinness!) I had been interviewing Hull punks LIFE at the British Music Embassy while Carrie caught the Academic at the Full Irish Breakfast Thursday afternoon. It was now my turn to catch part of a set by the band I’d been wanting to see live for a long time.

The Academic, Music from Ireland showcase, The Velveeta Room, Friday 17 March 2017

Having seen the Music from Ireland showcase at Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room for so many years, I have to say the Velveeta Room feels like a much better venue for the bands. It also oddly reminds me of The Tivoli where MFI’s Canadian Music Week showcase was in 2016, so it has that going for it. The Academic from Mullingar were worth the wait. Full of the fun and vigour that made me fall in love with Two Door Cinema Club back in 2009, they brought an intensity and energy to the venue that only youth can. Singer/guitarist Craig Fitzgerald is an effective frontman, leading his band into every dynamic number, from single ‘Mixtape 2003’ that we reviewed last summer to their 2015 EP standout ‘Different’. Check out my very funny interview with the whole band that we did after their set through here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu8M3Cw6fuU[/youtube]

I then returned to the British Music Embassy for the BBC Introducing / PRS for Music showcase to witness Glasgow pop rockers Catholic Action have Latitude 30’s punters in the palm of their hand. They proved that being given a much bigger room that earlier at the Mohawk was no problem at all. (Stay tuned for Carrie’s report of their performance Saturday afternoon at El Sapo, which was additional evidence that outdoor Mexican-themed venues are no match for them either.) Following the Scots was another band I’d been recommended to see, though to be honest, I was expecting it to be full of shenanigans. I wasn’t wrong, and it seemed everyone who was there that Friday night to see them couldn’t talk about anyone or anything else the last day of SXSW.

Bristol punks IDLES (yes, all caps again) are probably best known to 6 Music listeners for their track ‘WELL DONE’, which hilariously name-checks not only Steve Lamacq but also ex-Great British Bakeoff octagenarian Mary Berry having a job and enjoying reggae. People are angry with what’s going on in Britain and in a similar vein to what LIFE are doing in East Yorkshire, IDLES are the South West equivalent in providing the opening of a pressure valve. In Red Hot Chili Peppers-style, guitarist Mark Bowen seems to enjoy performing in nothing but his underpants, which if you’re a photographer is not for the faint of heart.

IDLES, British Music Embassy, BBC Introducing / PRS for Music showcase, Latitude 30, Friday 17 March 2017

I get that it’s part of their anarchic style that continues into their debut album ‘BRUTALISM’ out now, but it’s distracting (I think negatively) from the messages Joe Talbot wants to send in his lyrics. Their live performance is everything you would expect: a ruckus onstage, leading to equally crazy scenes down on the floor. IDLES did everything they set out to do: create havoc.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Oxqf_15k0w[/youtube]

 

TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017: Southern England artists showcasing at this year’s SXSW

 
By on Friday, 3rd March 2017 at 11:00 am
 

Roll up! Roll up! For today’s TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017, we’re taking the train out of London and into the South East and South West of England to check out the artists there who have received shouts for this year’s big do. Except where noted, the summaries below were written by our Cambridge correspondent Steven Loftin, except where noted. Please note: all information we bring you about SXSW 2017 is to the best of our knowledge when it posts and artists and bands scheduled to appear may be subject to change. To learn when your favourite artist is playing in Austin, we recommend you first consult the official SXSW schedule, then stop by the artist’s Facebook and official Web site for details of any non-official SXSW appearances.

Alice Jemima – pop / Exeter
Super cool and smooth beats twinned with Alice Jemima’s dreamy voice makes for more than a pleasant listen. If anything, you could get lost for days in the musical wonderlands she creates, with a mixture of electronic and instrumentation stylings, if you don’t fall for Alice Jemima, then more fool you.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoEXjFn3CMs[/youtube]

Annabel Allum – rock / Guildford
One of those DIY, totally be yourself types, Annabel Allum refuses to be pigeonholed or adhering to any kind of fad. What she creates is a world of her own, a mixture of punk in its true form, dark indie a la Interpol and a carefree attitude that lends itself to her lyrics. Definitely worth checking out: if you’re not at SXSW, do yourself the favour to have a listen to her at least on Soundcloud.

The Bay Rays – rock / Tunbridge Wells
With a vigour and upbeat swagger, The Bay Rays have a sound that is definitely fit for summer. That said, their lyrical content is often not of quite the same persuasion, often dealing with the idea of homelessness and the bottomless pit that is life. Latest single ‘Satisfaction’ carries all of these traits in spades. After supporting fellow SXSW attendees Slaves last year, The Bay Rays are definitely ones to check out. [As of 21/2, this act is no longer listed on the SXSW Music Festival schedule.]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3OFkEWdl7Q[/youtube]

Blaenavon – rock / Liphook
Blaenavon are the ultimate example of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. You kind of expect guys like them with long hair and sullen looks to either shoegazers or one of the many lo-fi rock groups of late, but they are neither. Their music has a dark edge like a 21st century Nirvana, yet songs like ‘Let’s Pray’ prove they can do pop as well. Their debut album, ’That’s Your Lot’, will be out on the 7th of April, so their time in Austin will allow them to preview their songs in front of a largely American audience and for a second time at SXSW (they came over for the event last year). (Mary Chang)

To catch up on TGTF’s past coverage of Blaenavon, go here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPyWV_u2sY0[/youtube]

Buggsy – hip-hop / Bristol
It was bands like Massive Attack and Portishead and the sound of trip hop that put South West England city Bristol on the map. Rasta MC Buggsy wants to change that, stood in front to lead the charge of the city’s best rappers. As mentioned yesterday in introducing rapper Safone in the Midlands edition of the TGTF Guide to SXSW 2017, it’s hard for rappers to get attention if they’re not from London. Seeing how big the genre of rap has become over the years at SXSW, he couldn’t have picked a better year to get his time in the spotlight in Austin. (Mary Chang)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLZROAx9XwU[/youtube]

Chad Valley – electronic / Oxford
Mixing beautifully layered vocals with chilled out synth work, Hugo Manuel aka Chad Valley will in no doubt be one to soundtrack to some beautiful Texas afternoons next month. Having released a plethora of singles, two EPs and a couple of albums, Chad Valley is easily racking up quite the impressive discography which he’ll in no doubt showcase expertly in Texas.

IDLES – punk / Bristol
If you’ve been wondering if there was a Southern counterpart to socially conscious Midlands group Sleaford Mods, look no further. Blistering Bristolian punks IDLES will be releasing their debut album ‘BRUTALISM’ – yes, they love those capital letters! – on the 10th of March, just a few days shy of the start of SXSW 2017. So you can bet they’ll be eager to unleash their newest tunes on the unsuspecting punters descending on Austin. I also wonder how Mary Berry feels about being namechecked in their single ‘WELL DONE’… (Mary Chang)

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Oxqf_15k0w[/youtube]

Lewis Watson – singer/songwriter / Oxford
Oxfordian Lewis Watson has everything you’d expect from a British songwriter: emotive and heart on sleeve lyricism and beautiful compositions. Gearing up to release his second album ‘Midnight’ shortly after SXSW, Watson is steadily building an arsenal of heart.

To read more on TGTF’s past coverage of Lewis Watson, go here.

Muncie Girls – rock / Exeter
Another act breaking through the ranks of British rock, Muncie Girls (pictured at top) are melodic punk at its finest. Though their sound is still currently quite raw, it only helps exude the emotion in their music, and over time this will work itself into a fully embellished. Expect their second album to be released at some point in 2017.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPbTMvDjyHA[/youtube]

SG Lewis – r&b / electronic / Reading
Coming at you with lustrous, thick beats that erupt and pulsate around ghost like vocals, SG Lewis is here to soundtrack your dreary city nights. Having signed to his dream label of PMR (they also represent big names Disclosure and Jessie Ware), SG Lewis looks set to make his mark with electronic music paired with the thinking of a smart singer/songwriter.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfWdOpuNgGw[/youtube]

Slaves – punk / London via Tunbridge Wells
Not really in need of an introduction, punks Slaves are heading back to America to cause more havoc. With their vicious and raw sound that is made to rouse and provoke, they don’t take prisoners. They demand them. You can read editor Mary’s review of their latest album that was
released last September, ‘Take Control’, through here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wWBeJpFsQs[/youtube]

To check out more of TGTF’s past coverage on Slaves, follow this link.

Sundara Karma – rock / Reading
Having just released one hell of a debut album with ‘Youth Is Only Fun In Retrospect’ in January (reviewed here by Carrie), Sundara Karma are also a part of the new wave of British music that has a saviour like feel to it. If you don’t find yourselves moving and shaking to their sounds then we can’t help you, you’re on your own.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bGs64ipYpU[/youtube]

This is the Kit – folk / Bristol via Paris
In a manner similar to fellow South By attendees Modern English, This is the Kit has a raw and vulnerable indie sound about them. From the brain of Kate Stables and performing under the moniker This is the Kit, she composes each track with her own talents and select friends to build the ideas in her head into these tangible and timeless indie pieces. [Aaron Dessner of the National is a fan, having signed their band to his Brassland label. – Ed.] [As of 21/2, this act is no longer listed on the SXSW Music Festival schedule.]

Wildwood Kin – folk / Exeter
With a name like Wildwood Kin, you can probably imagine what they sound like: delicate, soft folk music that couldn’t squeeze any more emotion or feeling into it even if they tried. The sweet sound of Americana but with English heart, this all-female trio will have you weeping in seconds. [As of 21/2, this act is no longer listed on the SXSW Music Festival schedule.]

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPjWuQBaUNo[/youtube]

 

Live Gig Video: Lewis Watson and band perform first taster of new material, ‘Maybe We’re Home’

 
By on Thursday, 11th February 2016 at 4:00 pm
 

Oxfordshire singer/songwriter Lewis Watson wowed me live 2 years ago with tracks from his album ‘The Morning’. This month, he’s previewed upcoming material with a taster, ‘Maybe We’re Home’. While most of the tracks on ‘The Morning’ LP favoured a more folky, simpler feel, this new single is fuller and richer, suggesting Watson’s songwriting is maturing at a good clip. That said, there is still plenty of emotion in the shades of Watson’s voice, which I consider one of his greatest gifts to us. Watch Lewis Watson and his band perform ‘Maybe We’re Home’ below. Let’s hope we hear much more from him soon!

All past coverage on Lewis Watson on TGTF is through this link.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS_55derpyk[/youtube]

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Live Review: Lewis Watson with Alicia Rae at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 14th November 2014

 
By on Monday, 17th November 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

With a chilly temperature hovering around 0 degrees after the sun had set last Friday, you’d think a DC gigging crowd wouldn’t show up until doors had opened at the U Street Music Hall. But you would be wrong. However, to the fans that braved the cold to be sure they’d be as close to the front of the stage as possible, the draw for the night was entirely worth.

But before we get that, let’s talk about the opener, shall we? After a while, the young, adorable singer/songwriter women of the world start to blur together in my mind. Unless I’m mistaken – or maybe I’m just not going to the right shows? – there aren’t that many of them in my neck of the woods making waves. Alicia Rae is from Waldorf, Maryland (pretty much only known as the birthplace of Good Charlotte) and is a relative newcomer to the scene. Having only gone professional a few short years ago, she is like the evening’s headliner: entirely self-taught. Her track ‘Autumn’, appropriate for this time of year, has already been played thousands of times on Spotify.

For this audience that consisted mostly of teenage girls who heart One Direction, she hit the spot with her tearjerk-y but inescapably simplistic songs about life and love, sung in a fittingly sweet voice. She explained she wrote ‘Hideaway’ while a tornado threatened outside her window; she thanked her dad for the inspirational phrase “1-2-3 forever” for another tune. ‘Sweet Melody’, the title track from her forthcoming EP scheduled to be out in 2015, can be downloaded for free from Rae’s Web site.

I have to give full credit to our David Wriglesworth for tipping Lewis Watson and recommending me to have a listen to his music. As many of you know, the singer/songwriter genre isn’t my favourite: the idea of someone dredging up old heartbreaks for art usually bores me to tears. Get on with your life already! So it takes a very special act to truly get my attention. The first and admittedly unfair thing most critics will notice about Lewis Watson is his age. But forget that he’s 22: what you will glean from the Oxfordshire native’s debut album ‘The Morning’ released this summer on major Warner Music is that his songwriting is not only emotional but entirely sincere. (If you have any question about this sincerity, read David’s q&a with Watson posted last week.)

This may be coloured somewhat by the fact that the young man is still completely humbled by the overwhelming reception he gets from fans at his shows, which includes this short first headline tour of North America this month. He better get used to it: I always wear earplugs to gigs but my word, I needed them with the amount of screaming and shouts of “I love you!” that went on between the songs. I bring up the word ‘humble’ because last month, he and his band had visa issues, which necessitated a postponement of the entire string of dates and some venue changes. Instead of blaming the American embassy in London or anyone else, he took to his old friend YouTube to record a video for his fans to personally relay his regrets for the delay. What really got me was when he specifically apologised for moving the DC area date from Jammin’ Java in northern Virginia to U Street Music Hall in downtown Washington, saying that he’d “been assured it’s only a half-hour drive away” and he hoped people would be able to make it to the new show. He wouldn’t have known that most people come into the city for shows all the time and Jammin’ Java is an outlier whose listings only represent a small percentage of our area’s gigs, but the fact that he went the extra mile to personally apologise for the change melted my heart.

He apologised again for the venue change at the show Friday night and also for the fact that he only had his bespectacled keyboardist and backing vocalist Roxanne with him. Endearingly, he implored the audience at times to imagine a full band behind him, with drum flourishes and the like, saying he was sorry that the rest of his crew couldn’t make. To be honest, he didn’t really need them and I feel like it was a special treat to witness this stripped back set that allowed his songwriting talent and the beautiful timbres of his voice to really shine. I mean, after all, aren’t all singer/songwriters’ songs initially conceived with only acoustic guitar and voice anyway?

Shrieks and sighs of delight from punters punctuated the start and finish to every one of his songs, which led him to smile bashfully but broadly in appreciation. Describing Los Angeles as “a really weird place” where he wrote the aptly titled ‘LA Song’ made the crowd laugh at his Englishness; his appreciation for grape soda (“we don’t have this in England!”) and twist top bottles in America was met with similar amusement. Hey, if you got it (and your fans love the fact you’re English), flaunt it.

The place went hushed and quiet as a tomb for a gorgeous unplugged version of ‘Halo’, presented by Lewis and Roxanne up on the edge of the front of the stage. That was a clear standout, as was a surprising cover of Everything Everything‘s ‘The Peaks’, which he prefaced by saying how much their debut album ‘Man Alive’ meant to him, and that everyone in the audience should check them out. (Good man.) Watson explained the wistfully regretful ‘Ghost’ was written shortly after he’d been friendzoned, and really, who of us haven’t be there, am I right? We also were treated to the dark yet remarkably gorgeous new song ‘When the Water Meets the Mountains’, which Watson described as the desire of spending the last moments of life before the apocalypse in joyful recognition with the one you love. Pretty heavy subject matter, yet brilliantly done.

In just this one song, he demonstrated his ability to present genuine feelings yet with the confines of pop sensibility. David reckons he could be the next Ed Sheeran; I’ve never been a fan of Sheeran’s so if I’m honest, I hope Watson’s sincerity takes him even further than him. I’m looking forward to seeing Watson’s reception in Austin at next year’s SXSW.

After the cut: Lewis Watson’s set list.
Continue reading (SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Live Review: Lewis Watson with Alicia Rae at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 14th November 2014

 
 
 

About Us

There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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