Saturday, 14 November 2015

Need a new guitar, John?

I told you this life isn’t viable...
John Bramwell has played two great sets and given us real value for money and he apologizes for not playing any new stuff!

Go to my website and you can have it for free,’ he beams as he starts the next song. But I can see his mind working and he stops, and decides to let us in on his secret…‘In fact I got into a lot of trouble for doing that from my lawyer. He said I can’t just give it away. He said everyone else would go crazy.’ The crowd cheer at one of the few music mavericks still around. He continues, ‘I told him I’ve only made £3k in the last fifteen years – I’ll give away what I want.’ More cheers… ‘Sod it, I’m just going play gigs from now on. This is great.’ The crowd love it and he finally launches into the song.

As he finishes he starts to tune the guitar while chatting to the audience. It is taking a while and he is heckled…‘You need a new guitar John.’ Quick as a flash he retorts, ‘it’s not even mine, it’s the support act’s. I told you this life isn’t viable.

The dangers of drink...
Bramwell elicits a faithful following. The crowd is full of real devotees who sing along with every word of every song. Maybe they are not in time or in tune but they know them all, just as the crowd at the Whiskey Sessions in Manchester did in Sept 2014 as I Am Kloot played. He is held up as one of the greatest song writers of his generation and he is playing a small venue in Chester! What a great place to see him! It is intimate, just perfect for an artist who without showing off is an exquisite showman. He is so at ease as he chats with the audience, the natural comic, and switches effortlessly from witty banter to soulful song and back again.

That was crap,’ he tells those singing along and laughs, ‘you really interpreted that song so well….’ – it is a song about the dangers of drink - ‘you sounded awful. I should have recorded you for the album.

In the mix his vocals are pushed high up to the front, drowning out his subtle guitar. It is a statement that says the lyrics are of prime importance - ‘I am a wordsmith.’ As he reinterprets I am Kloot songs for himself as a solo artist, I get the sense that these are works in progress and will always be, as he uses the live performance to tease out even more meaning and poignancy. At times he refers to a set list, but unlike other artists who use one to lead them through the gig from start to finish, Bramwell uses it as most of us use a shopping list in a supermarket. He ticks off songs that he has taken from the shelf and played, and checks from time to time to see what he has still to find, but the order the items fall into the trolley bears no resemblance to the order on the list!

He also responds to requests from the audience. On one occasion, after a long and tortuous tuning of his guitar, whilst all the time telling tales, a request is heard. He immediately puts down the tuned guitar and picks up a nylon string acoustic. He starts the song then dissolves into laughter as he realizes that he has spent so long tuning one guitar only to abandon it for the song he is now playing! 

A collective sigh of relief...
This is close to a perfect gig for me, spoiled only by some elements of the audience. I have complained before of always ending up stood behind the tall man,  and tonight it seems is not going to be an exception. Just as Bramwell takes to the stage a very tall man and his average height partner start to move forward. I’m stood with my Malt‘n’Music mate against the wall, the venue is hot and my jacket is on the floor also against the wall. The tall guy announces in a very loud and proud voice, ‘don’t worry I’m not going to stand in front of you.’ There is a collective sigh of relief from us mortals of average height and then he forces his way in between us, quite literally pushing me out of his way and standing all over my jacket! I know it’s a long way down from his great height and it must be difficult for him to be self-aware enough to know I am there, but I am eventually forced to move. On the plus side, I do think the prints from his massive size 13 shoes are an addition to the overall aesthetic of my jacket – thank you!

If only he was the biggest, as well as tallest, pain in the audience tonight. When an audience comes together it is a lottery, but generally in my experience the more dedicated and devoted they are to the artist the less distracted they will be. So tonight I had assumed it would be an audience who would be rowdy during Bramwell’s talky bits but who would listen during the songs. But no, there are a couple of blokes who talk incessantly. Telford’s Warehouse is a venue designed in such way as to allow those who want to talk to stay in the bar area, and allow those of us who want to listen to do just that.

However, these two clowns are right there in the middle and talking over everything. It’s not that they are not fans - they clearly recognize each song during the first bar of the intro - but for some reason they feel it is OK to talk loudly during each song. One bar in and I hear, ‘this is my favorite song!’ I foolishly think that maybe we will be allowed to listen to it then,  but no! ‘It’s got a great brass line in it… it comes…Ba, ba, ba, baa.’ Now, this is not I am Kloot. This is John Bramwell playing songs acoustically. He doesn’t even own the guitar he is playing. It should be obvious that he is not going to have a brass section hidden away just for this song.  So enjoy his brass-less rendition tonight and allow us to as well! But no. And even after the appalling impersonation of a brass section the conversation continues. Just when I think they will shut up as they have exhausted all ways humanly possible to inform their fellow human beings that they adore this piece of music, and I finally think we will all be allowed to listen in peace, one of them enquires of his neighbour ‘How’s the beer? 

You also can’t choose all your fellow audience members...
At the beginning of the month I was listening to Danny Schmidt play ‘Stained Glass’ - currently my favorite song. I am quite sure that while he was singing it, the last thing on my mind was to ask my neighbour about the quality of the alcoholic beverage she was drinking! They say you can’t choose your family only your friends. Unfortunately you also can’t choose all your fellow audience members! 

Bramwell finishes the evening with no pretence of an encore. He has played for a long time, shared what he wants to share, and played what he wants to play off his 'shopping' set list! Its time to call it a night with one last sing-a-long. On the way home I chat with my friend about the gig. The things Bramwell said and did, the songs he played, and the way he played them. So often I travel home from a gig alone and have no one to relive it with, so it’s a joy to be able to share thoughts with someone else tonight. But I have just one burning question on my mind, and just before we reach our destination, only then, does it feel like the right and proper time to enquire about the quality of beverage he had earlier….

Gig: 32 of 50
Date of Gig: Thurs. 29th October 2015

Telford's Warehouse, Chester

John Bramwell
Dave Fidler

Running total of artists seen 67

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