Martin John Henry / The Seventeenth Century / Adam Stafford – Stereo, Glasgow – 8th October 2011
The last thing you want for your album launch is for your Cds to be lost somewhere in the Czech Republic. But that was the fate which befell Martin John Henry for the launch of his wonderful debut solo LP ‘The Other Half of Everything’ at Stereo last night.
Not having the LP to sell after the performance must have been frustrating but Martin and band certainly didn’t let it affect their performance.
After the live debut in Dundee and a performance at Avalanche in Edinburgh this was only the band’s third public show. But even in the space of a couple of weeks things have moved on a bit.
The key difference was the greater integration of the sampler into the songs. This meant that the sound was closer to that of the record. But, although it’s closer this is still a very different experience to the record. The songs are still great of course but it’s still very much a rock show.
It’s the least restrained band I’ve seen Martin play with. De Rosa at times seemed to be holding back from cutting loose which made the rare occasions when they did so all the more effective. That’s not the case with the current MJH band.
Part of that’s probably down to personnel – Paul and Chris are different types of guitarists whilst the difference between drummers Raindeer and Neil is probably even more pronounced.
So yeah, it’s a different experience but one that complements the record. Live shows should not simply ape their parent records. With most of the LP represented (only ‘Perfect Landing’ and ‘New Maps’ don’t get played) there are plenty of highlights.
Amongst those are the magnificent ‘Span’ and ‘First Light’ whilst ‘Seventh Song’ benefits from Martin bringing his acoustic along.
Of the material not featured in Dundee, ‘Breathing Space’ is far more muscular than on record whilst ‘Only Colour’ is suitably epic albeit the sampler seems to want to dominate the song more than the muscians really wanted!
‘Choose Your Words Carefully’ comes over slightly oddly. The crashing guitars work perfectly but the final quieter section (relatively speaking) feels like it hasn’t quite been worked out yet and comes over as a little unfocussed.
It’s the only slight mis-step of the performance something emphasised by the closing ‘Phantom’ which is quite astonishing.
All in all, for all the intensity of the show it’s a far more relaxed performance than in Dundee and I’ve rarely seen Martin as animated whilst performing. It’s great to have him back playing with a band.
There were two very different support acts. First up was Adam Stafford and if I had any expectations of a typical singer-songwriter these were swiftly dispelled. Adam’s five songs were built round samples, sung or played live on guitar, with layer upon layer added over the next few minutes.
In the course of five songs a couple are completely acapella and two also feature a human beat box. It’s an adventurous and intriguing set.
Next up were the Seventeenth Century. Initially they seemed to be entirely rooted in folk, in lots of ways a far more elegant and stately version of Randolph’s Leap. But they cut loose on the penultimate song and the final track is excellent too.
So, another Saturday in Stereo and another tremendous show.
1. Breathing Space 2. First Light 3. Ribbon on a Bough 4. I Love Map 5. Span 6. Only Colour 7. Seventh Song 8. Choose Your Words Carefully 9. There’s A Phantom Hiding In My Loft
The first new record of 2010 for me is the debut E.P. from the Seventeenth Century – entitled The Seventeenth Century (Part One), which is officially released next Monday (10th) on Electra French Records
The Seventeenth Century (as do so many Scottish releases these days) straddle the interface between folk and indie although they do so with an understated magnificence few can match.
Lead track ‘Young Francis’ opens on some martial drumming but gives you a good idea of what’s to come with its swooping choruses and gentle woodwind.
‘Amongst Other Things’ is a short ambient instrumental whilst ‘Roses in the Park’ is largely based around an acapella folk chant bookended though by lovely instrumental passages.
The closing track ‘Countryside’ operates almost in a reverse – a gorgeous folk lament sandwiches an elegant, soaring theme which ebbs again before the vocal conclusion.
There’s a passing resemblance to Broken Records at times but whereas I found that band’s first LP a little overblown at times, the Seventeenth Century go about their business with dignity and restraint.
The E.P. is available as a 10″ vinyl single with free download code and it’s launched at the Captain’s Rest next Tuesday (11th January) with support from Martin John Henry.
If you can’t make it to the show then pre-order the E.P. here.
Photo by Takeshi Suga.