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Withered Hand / Samantha Crain / Adam Stafford – Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh – Thursday 21st August 2014

My August Edinburgh madness continued last Thursday with an eagerly anticipated Withered Hand headline show at the Queen’s Hall. With a long established favourite opening the show and a completely new name before the headliner, it looked like an intriguing line-up.

MPT favourite Adam Stafford opened the evening and it’s probably fair to say that he wasn’t an obvious choice as an opening act for a show like this.

By his standards Adam played what can fairly be described as a pop set, certainly compared with Aberdeen’s more experimental guitar-less outing recently. Additionally Thursday’s set was rather less complex than that Northern outing.

Much of the set was drawn from ‘Imaginary Walls Collapse’ (including pop hit ‘Vanishing Tanks’ – to the delight of the MPKs) but it was also slightly longer than I’d expected. So there was room for both the classic ‘Shot Down Summer Wannabees’ and a new song which is more song based than the sound collages of the Tunnels show (although hopefully its working title of ‘It’ll Probably be Shite’ doesn’t stick!).

It was a brilliant display of Stafford at his most accessible and hopefully the performance will have won him some new fans. Certainly his set was well received.

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Next up was Samanatha Crain whose name I had seen before but about whom I knew absolutely nothing. Her solo acoustic performance therefore came as a delightful surprise.

I’ve only got positive things to say about her set. She brought a real energy to her performance, both in her singing and her guitar playing, she’s a good storyteller both through her songs and in between.

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable set which was particularly well received by the growing audience.

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And so to the headliner. To be honest it wasn’t the best show I’ve seen from Dan – indeed at times it sounded a little flat.

When there’s a 10 piece band on stage, you want to hear all their contributions. Unfortunately there were instruments which just seemed to disappear into the mix, particularly Pete Harvey’s cello, and instead of the zip you’d expect from a big band, the sound ended up rather stodgy. Which is more than a little ironic given how bright and sparkly the production is on the second album.

This was more than a little frustrating because without question Dan has the songs to carry a 90 minutes set like this (just look below at the set list).

But for me it was the slower songs that worked out best on the night, particularly ‘California’ and ‘New Gods’.

The faster songs suffered the most but the likes of ‘New Dawn’ and the irrepressible ‘King of Hollywood’ were notable exceptions.

Content wise, the set largely rejigged the Liquid Room setlist from April but the longer running time lent itself to some notable inclusions in the shape of ‘Hard On’ , ‘Love In The Time of Ecstasy’ and ‘I Am Nothing’.

After thinking that the Liquid Room show was approaching a slick rock gig, this show perhaps redressed the balance, as the band had to restart no fewer than THREE songs! In fact the opening ‘Horseshoe’ was almost halfway through when it fell apart to, it has to be said, some cheering from the crowd.

“Don’t fucking cheer!” was Dan’s reaction to that and the band thereafter maintained a semblance of order until the encores when both ‘New Gods’ and ‘Not Alone’ suffered similar fates!

An intriguing evening then which didn’t quite reach the heights that it might have done. But I’m pretty certain next time will.

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Withered Hand played:

1. Horseshoe 2. Providence 3. Black Tambourine 4. I Am Nothing 5. New Dawn 6. Love Over Desire 7. King of Hollywood 8., Love In The Time of Ecstasy 9. Fall Apart 10. Religious Songs 11. California 12. Between True Love and Ruin 13. Heart, Heart

Encore
14. Cornflake (solo) 15. New Gods 16. Hard On 17. Not Alone

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