Live Review: John Joseph Brill – Liverpool

John Joseph Brill

john joseph brillLeaf, Liverpool, May 13th 2015

Words: Gary Lambert

Local promoter Harvest Sun have a reputation for gigs of quality but often acts you have never heard of. I am a bit of a fan of a random ticket purchase to their nights.  It was one of those random nights at Studio2 to see John Joseph Brill play. Without any research into genre even to guide me I turned up with my iPad in hand to see what lay ahead over the next couple of hours.

The first act of the night was Skeleton Key Records signing Marvin Powell. Opening with an Iberian styled number full of finger plucking guitar he caught the attention straight away. His second track was soon-to-be-new-single Buried. This was a softer, more laid back tune than his starter, but reminded me of an acoustic Love.  As Liverpool seems to give instructions to purchase Forever Changes with your first guitar to be inspired in that way even accidentally is not a surprise.

Next up was a slice of legitimate Americana in Ian Janco.  Legitimate as he is actually American. There to sell copies of his debut album, he did a fine job plugging it with his roaring, growling vocal on top of some top notch chilled out guitar.  Ian commented when playing his self-declared Blues number Count Me In that it was usually played as a band number rather than a solo track, but from the way he had my foot tapping it didn’t lose out for not having a supporting cast.  His set peaked with a song without doubt Californian in origin Never Fall. Whilst it was described as “Santa Cruzy” by its writer, for those who have not ventured to the Pacific coast I would use the term acoustic hip hop. The personality and confidence of the performer encouraged the crowd to join him in a singalong.

It has to be said the audience at the gig was fantastic. Respectful at the right times, but then enthusiastic and supportive to the acts on stage whilst never falling into the uncomfortable seriousness that you can get on some nights.  It was something all three acts commented on. Indeed headliner John Joseph Brill thanked the audience for their behaviour saying it was just another reason he was glad he moved to Liverpool six months earlier.

Now on to that man.  Every so often there comes an act who is spoken about in the shadows by people who just seem to know good music, an act you must see, a talent you won’t believe.  Well JJB is just that.  I had heard the whispers, but not heard anything of his music yet.  Given the acts on before him I was preparing myself for another male solo artist with acoustic guitar.  Oh how wrong I was!

Onstage was a four piece (all bearded) and then they started playing. From the stripped down sounds of the beach beforehand we now hit soundscapes like aural Alps primarily created by guitarist “Joe”.  Accompanying these wonderful noises was the Brill Baritone. And what a voice that is! So powerful it felt like a rhythmic lecture from Brian Blessed rather just someone singing. The second song, The Grape and The Grain saw the soundscape reduce and JJB’s voice really take over like a slightly less flamboyant Nick Cave singing along to early college rock REM. it was a pleasure to be there.

Even the two-song acoustic section of the set kept up the quality but there was scope for a little bugbear of mine in that the sound was set up to crackle like old vinyl.  Whilst an interesting technique on CD, at a gig it just sounds like an engineering mistake and is a bit annoying. But that is only a minor issue. New song, I Wanna Know You sounded every more impressive than what had gone before as the songwriting talent is growing. When inviting the audience to purchase his EP, John Joseph mentioned how he only moved north six months ago, on behalf of my city and its music fans I thank you!

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