Beyond Slick – Withered Hand live

Withered Hand / Philip Taylor – The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh – Thursday 22nd November 2018

This was the first of two special full band Withered Hand shows the first of which saw the band backed by a brass section and the second, the following night, by the Cairn String Quartet.

It’s a fair wee while since we’d seen the full band Hand so the tickets for the first night were booked swiftly. And it turned out to be one of the best Withered Hand shows we’ve seen.

Four years on from the last album, new songs in the set seemed long overdue. So it was a bonus when the opening number was, indeed a new song! Identified on the setlist as ‘Squirrel’ it can perhaps best be described as a Withered Hand take on Pavement.

The second new tune came deeper into the set and in fact, whilst unrecorded, isn’t that new. In fact, Dan played  version of ‘Jubilee’ live at the impromptu solo set at the Wee Red Bar in 2012 and I always wondered what had happened to it since it didn’t turn up on ‘New Gods’. In this incarnation it’s a rockier tune but like ‘Squirrel’ at the start of the set, a very promising start towards a new record.

Otherwise the set took in familiar but well loved ground. The addition of the brass for roughly half the set was a good way of throwing new light on some of the songs particularly when used to expand the arrangements of the song such as on ‘Between True Love and Ruin’ and ‘New Gods’.

It was a genuinely feel good show, the mix of songs from the two records as effective as ever and the exchanges between, Dan, band and audience adding to the atmosphere. There was an additional guest for a couple of tunes with support Phillip Taylor adding guitar to an emotional ‘Fall Apart’, dedicated to Scott Hutchison, and a raucous ‘Heart, Heart’.

The encores though were different class. After a full band run through of ‘Love in the Time of Ecstasy’, ‘No Cigarettes’ was supposed to be just Dan and Pete on French horn. Yet the song broke down almost immediately, in fact as soon as Pete entered. Dan’s accusatory looks were deflected when Pete announced that Dan had started the song in the wrong key! “I wondered why it sounded so good!” was Dan’s response. Finish the song he did, but almost lost it again when he reached the ‘this isn’t a song/I’m not the singer ’ line.

Needless to say the crowd loved that and the band were summoned back on stage for a further encore in the shape of the rarely aired ‘Hard On’, the perfect conclusion to a life affirming show. [Setlist]

Philip’s set was split between older PAWS songs and others destined for their fourth LP in the new year. Shorn of the velocity and noise, songs like ‘Tongues’ reveal themselves to be much more than adrenalin fuelled indie rockers I’d kind of imagined them to be. But taken with the more melodic approach evident at the Idlewild support slot in the summer, I’m looking forward to the next PAWS album as much as I did the debut.

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