Live Review: Rosenblume – Liverpool

Rosenblume

rosenblumeLeaf, Liverpool, April 23rd 2015

Words: Gary Lambert

I walked into the venue with a trendy teapot in one hand to the sounds of Freight Train Blues by Sidney Bechet to be met by a darkened room filled with the usual Mellowtone set up of tables and chairs. The convivial atmosphere was like a social club on a Friday nigh. Admittedly a social club that was more Bugsy Malone than Brian Potter. The punters were generally dressed up, but not too dressed up like the peacocks you sometimes associate with a city centre. Everything felt so very comfortable and friendly as though everybody knew each other but didn’t want to build up the excitement too early akin to the lull of a surprise party before the guest of honour arrives. Not that gigs put on by the fantastic Mellowtone every get rowdy, raucous or even rocking, it’s not that kind of night. If you have not been to a Mellowtone night, wait until you’re next in need of a chilled out night or a date to show off your musical taste and get to one.

The mixed nationality but Scouse settled High Fields started off the night with harmonies and real North American sounding folk music. If country music reminds you of the Deep South, opening track Back This Way takes you into the mountains and of a life where electricity is not an essential compared with an acoustic guitar and a mighty fine beard to hold the cold at bay. Lead singer,…, took over full duties with What A Way To Move On. A bitter lost love song with more than a confident wink to the words. The rest of the band rejoined him from the shadows two steps back from their mics for the rest of the set which saw an increased tempo grab the attention of the audience and get some rapturous applause. Before the final song it was announced that it was secondary vocalist, and primary shaker, Alex’s penultimate gig, I thoroughly enjoyed the set and hope this doesn’t lead to a massive change in their sound. Choose a replacement wisely guys as you have a great sound and the right chorus / listener could send you way beyond being a support act on Bold Street.

Next up was the more somber sound of Liverpool-based Irish folk singer Tiz McNamara. A man who makes miserable music for a happy world according to his Twitter bio. His second song, I Will Hold You Steady, has apparently been used sixteen times in Hollyoaks whenever someone gets knocked over by a bus. This sad folk song deserved a better audience than people showing off newly purchased underwear and unnecessarily shouting to each other. For his single, Hold On, Tiz’s vocal sounded more Irish than earlier songs. It could just have been my hearing or him relaxing. I can see why he has been played on Hollyoaks though as his singing and style is very much favoured by TV song pickers as he sounds like that fella who was in that band doing solo stuff. Changing is usually a duo, but the girl who sings alongside him was unavailable tonight so this became a one-man duet. To his credit I could not see any gaps or slots were you would expect another singer to fit in.

These two top notch performances set the scene for the man of the hour Rosenblume. Here to launch his excellent new EP, “All Through The Fire, All Through The Rain“, he took to the stage with a full backing band of musicians. I counted eight of them on stage plus the man himself. This was not a night for self-obsession but musical celebration. Opening with EP track, The Constant Lover, the band settled in to gear straight away. The sound was warm and enveloping and everybody looked like they were happy and confident playing it. Smiles were shared throughout as the band rattled through the song which feels like it has been in my ears for years. As good as his backing band and his songs are there is one star to a Rosenblume performance, his voice. Part of me prayed for the electricity to blackout purely to hear him sing without any distraction, Lost In The Air was as magnificent a showcase for his primary talent live as it is on record. There was not the slightest noise in the audience as he captivated his followers. Americana is used to describe most country-tinged acts these days, but I would say this is true Americana as you could feel the influences of jazz, funk and soul with Motown and Sun Records all battling for attention through the set. Sometimes all of them in the same song.

Showing respect to the man who sent him on his way to a love of music, Rosenblume dedicated a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s I Am A Rock to his dearly departed “arl man” (Dad for those unfamiliar with the Liverpool lexicon). I cannot imagine any father not feeling proud as punch at their son developing such a shared love and a talent from it. Following that up with EP’s title track was great juxtaposition. Lifting everybody from solemn respect to a knee-tapping, arm-waving pop song. Covering a song from guitarist Jimmy’s not yet released album (five years and counting) showed the band’s comfort with rhythm and blues. They didn’t give the name of the song, but it seems straight out of the pages of America’s Songbook.

Whilst I loved the set, I would point out one thing as a small point of improvement in stagecraft. Rosenblume is not an act for whom the audience knows every song and every word, so whilst friends and family watching might know the titles of the songs, and in-jokes which go with them, there are a number of people in the audience who need to be told and entertained.

Finishing on a dance and clap along number which showed an aptitude for entertainment, I think a few festivals could have some surprise early afternoon parties this summer. There is a good chance with hard work, luck and getting on the right bills Rosenblume could be playing in front of audiences who do know the words soon enough.

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