Blue Roses arrive leaving memories and feeling
Written By Michael Wood Friday, May 1st, 2009
Fourteen Corners, Jeremy Warmsley and Blue Roses Blue Roses Album Launch Night at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Something is wrong with Fourteen Corners. The usual chime of note perfection is failing West Yorkshire's leading band - here in Leeds's Brudenell Social Club as second support at the Blue Roses album launch - is lacking and Luke Silcock's guitar stumbles with a harsh twang through the opening We Are Pathetic, We Are Stars and stutters into The Walk Home.
None of this would be rare for most but Corners can pride themselves - should pride themselves - of getting the best sound in whichever arena they play be it pub or concert hall or strange mix of the two as Brudenell Social Club. One half expects to have a meat draw between songs or bingo numbers called but this Working Men's Club setting is the home of the non-workers, the students, of Leeds now. A mile or so away from the City Centre I muse for a moment on how this gig would have suited the long dead Duchess of York on Vicar Lane, Leeds. That is now a Hugo Boss shop.
By the time the second tune concludes Silcock's guitar has been tamed and Corners are back to the limitless wonders of the Bradford Music Scene which produce the main act tonight. Josh Taylor's vocals are sung with an unoften heard confidence but never with arrogance and they are layered over a set of melodies and tunes as distinctive from one another as the words that are delivered. Mike Wilson's bass and Marco Pasquaiello drums are pulse with an anticipation. One worries that the time for this band has come and gone and that they will leave behind memories of gigs and of tunes but no work and no album to march on as a memento of the excellence.
May The Days Be Aimless hows with a longing - "I know somethings wrong/Hold on now" - and I'm suddenly recasting Corners on the stage where fifteen months ago Okkervil River burst into my consciousness as that kind of spirited storyteller. The set continues and Silcock is back at million mile an hour fingering on his awakened guitar which drops as Taylor intones "To have no is to live without."
Fourteen Corners add another new song which tips hats to Aztec Camera and Prefab Sprout and I'm struck by how many times I've heard musicians - good ones too - mumble about how the set up and the sound was wrong and how that is never the case with this collective who master the environment they play in. They finish the set with New Limbs for Old Flames and I doubt I will see a better band tonight or during these three days of Live in Leeds which turns out to be a prediction out by just one.
Second on Jeremy Warmsley proudly announces that he had Blue Roses's Laura Groves supporting her in what was the singer's first gig and I hear my Dad's voice drifting into my cerebrum pointing out that he did the sound at the King's Arms in Bradford for her before then. It is a measure of cultural size when one's parents have heard of the thing you like. Former The Letters and current The Hobbes Fanclub guitarist Leon Carroll confirms that his Dad was also impressed that someone his band had the vaguest connection too (Blue Roses producer Marco Pasquaiello did the sound at The Letters gigs) was being reviewed in the Time and the Observer.
Warmsley hits feedback in his first song. He is acoustic and mellow making the kind of observations on life that would be on Jarvis Cocker's Twitter account and not his albums. His voice recalls Rufus Wainwright but his songs have the importance of everything The Lightning Seeds did that was not The Nearly Man which is not to say he was not good just that he was not weighty which in itself could have charm but tonight does not seem to. Perhaps it is the between song stories which paint him in an ill light or perhaps it is the fact that he falls a little too easily into Geek Chic to not do so consciously.
All that said he enjoys a couplet or two but "If he breaks your heart/I'll brakes his legs" rings hollow. Perhaps it is a stab at irony but too often irony masks a lack of truth and honesty of emotion is everything in song writing - or at least it is to me.
It was that honesty that interested me when I first heard Laura Groves - now Blue Roses - play her songs about Filey and the curved road down to Shipley station. Not the proximity or the fidelity to events but rather the resonance with a life I could empathise with. At the end of 2006 people I recall her voice standing out amongst the likes of The Streets and thinking that hers was the language of dreaming rather than urban nightmares and the broken down mundane.
Taking to the middle of the Brudenell stage Laura there is an air of anticipation. She is joined by Hannah Tidewell on violin and in front off the stage a small sit in has emerged - cross legged and ready for story time - which I join. I feel a burst of near paternal pride. This thing which I have evangelised to all who would hear is about to be shared. I gather thoughts for a moment now on how lucky I have been to catalogue this emergence - although that has been fortunate - but on how much pleasure every trip to The Love Apple or to Fagins, to St George's Hall or around Leeds last year watching this extraordinary performer has brought me.
And so into Greatest Thoughts and their is a silence and an appreciation for some but me I can see the evidence of metamorphosis. I feel I have watched for sometime but cannot tell you when the 21 year old Laura became this performer of depth and range and personality and confidence. These things where there for sure but when did they eclipse? When did they converge? I have watched the progression but I could not tell you when the shoulder became the neck nor when the arm became the wrist. At what point the girl from Shipley on the guitar became a performer of great merits but that she has.
Second is I Am Leaving which overcomes running repairs on the sound system. There is a feeling that there are new people here, people who are not used to the cues but are appreciative. They clap in all the wrong places but that warms the heart. They are new and they are converted. Coast - the song about Filey which first won me over - is picked out on an acoustic guitar maintaining a delicacy despite the layering of a violin to support and everything is how one would have hoped it would be.
Fourteen Corner's Josh Taylor joins for Does Anyone Love Me Now? softly adding a beat behind and I notice that the capo on the end of Groves's guitar turns and curls as a cello would and I am struck with the sadness of the song for the first time in the emote of the lyric "I tried so hard and for so long/but by the time I woke up you were gone."
A great performance should bring out new things from old songs. My favourite live renditions I've heard came last year with The Magnetic Fields imbuing Popa Was a Rodeo with a stark honesty I found utterly disarming and the aforementioned Okkervil River's A Stone bleeding from stage to audience. These songs were good that became great in performance. These are my pantheon. I'm not mentioning Blue Roses in the same breath, not yet, but only not yet.
Marco Pasquaiello - producer of the album and man on the rise - joins for Rebecca with Groves picking up an electric guitar over her acoustic and dipping deep into the soul to craft something of captive joy. Rebecca the song, Blue Roses the album, Laura, Marco, Josh and Hannah and these nights. These things are burnt into my mind and encapsulated in the optimistic advisory lyric "Turn yourself around/You can do better/Turn yourself around/Make yourself better" delivered here with an earnest gusto and never to be forgotten.
I muse on how watching Blue Roses is a holistic experience and how I can see parts of other bands I've watched over the past three years along with the Kate Bush parts of my Mum's record collection. I think about how the music comes from the surrounding area - from Shipley's Clock Tower of my student days to the East Coast of my young holidays. Perhaps it seems personal to everyone here, or perhaps just to me.
By the time Doubtful Comforts begins I'm aware of how Blue Roses and Laura Groves have drifted away into something bigger, something wider, something with depth and height and breadth and something else. If my chest were a ocean the waves of pride would be Tsunami. Solo - the very well hidden track on the album - references the Wizard of Oz which seems appropriate and finally I Wish I... grows and swell to the point of awe with Laura's vocal gymnastics something of a special effect, a fireworks show, a layer atop but not to distract from the core and that core being an honesty coupled with a ability which is now untethered and gloriously drifts on like a balloon loosed on a blue summers day.
She returns alone to whittle through Can't Sleep and in the last verse picks out a bum note or two. Diligently she looks down and corrects herself continuing with no fuss.
The last swallow of the summer that goes unnoticed. The last kiss.
Written By Michael Wood Friday, May 1st, 2009
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