If It’s Broken, Why Fix It? – Withered Hand live

Withered Hand / Ballboy / Darren Hayman / Josie Long – Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh – Saturday 4th August 2012

The Queen’s Hall is absolutely one of my favourite venues, not least in part because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad show there. With a terrific supporting bill there was never any danger of last night’s Withered Hand show being the first.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen many shows actively compered before but Josie Long’s performance begged the question why not. Her very funny slots introducing the bands certainly helped fill the gaps between the music.

Words beyond their lyrics are also important to the three main performers that Josie introduced.

I knew next to nothing about Darren Hayman who opened the show other than the fact that his band was (is?) called Hefner. He opened with a trio of songs on piano before switching to an acoustic for the remainder of his set of gentle acoustic psychedelia reminiscent of the quieter aspects of Mercury Rev.

Darren’s songs were linked by a series of unassuming stories about the writing of the songs, told in a wry manner. The biggest compliment though was paid by a spellbound audience with minimal talking through his set.

Next up were Ballboy who were more in number than the anticipated Gordon solo set. Backed by piano and violin, the acoustic nature of the show emphasised the folkier side of Ballboy.

With three new songs thrown in, the music was also more gentle than the average Ballboy full band set although the setting had little influence on Gordon’s between song banter, the highlight being his suggestion of Socialist (not geographical) independence enforced by a Frankenstein’s monster of spare body parts!

Ballboy played:
1. Slip Into The Ocean  2. I Gave Up My Eyes To A Man Who Was Blind  3. The Parade  4. I Need Two Hearts  5. The National Trust  6. I Am An Indie Pirate and I Want to Scuttle You  7. Let’s Start a Riot  8. Songs for Kylie  9. Olympic Cyclist  10. A Relatively Famous Victory

Finally the headline act. Anyone who has seen Withered Hand before knows that Dan Willson is another performer who makes the most of the between song gaps, although in slightly more quirky fashion than his support acts. He was in particularly good form last night but that of course is only part of his appeal.

One of the most singular talents on the Scottish music scene, this was a full band show but not the raucous rock’n’roll set, I’d half expected after the last time I saw a full band Withered Hand at  Haarfest two years ago.

Whilst he opened with two solo acoustic numbers, Dan was supported by an ever swelling number of musicians to add sympathetic backing as the set progressed, including several members of SHMB for the finale.

Amongst many highlights a sublime ‘Love In The Time of Ecstasy’ replete with gorgeous harmonies, was probably the peak. ‘Religious Songs’ meanwhile turned into a communal act of worship at the shrine of Withered Hand whilst ‘Heart, Heart’ brought the show to a slightly ramshackle but raucous conclusion.

A new E.P. is due next month whilst there will be band shows in support, including one in Glasgow on 28th September. More info here.

From last night’s show:


Withered Hand played:

1. Life of Doubt  2. Cornflake  3. Inbetweens  4. Love Over Desire  5. Gethsemane  6. Jubilee  7. Providence  8. I Am Nothing  9. Walls  10. Love In The Time of Ecstasy  11. New Dawn  12. New Case  13. Religious Songs

14. No Cigarettes  15. Heart, Heart