Gone for a Burton..

Saturday started for many of us with reminders to get online for noon when Ferocious Dog tickets for the Red Album intimate gig ticket link going live.  Dan always gets a hard time for lateness, sometimes a little unfairly, he was bang on time on this occasion – alas, so were the technical gremlins at Alt Tickets meaning lots of F5 pressing was going on around the country.  After a bit of waiting the new link went live and I’m happy to say I snagged a couple of tickets.

It would be a bit rubbish if I wasn’t able to write about the first airing of their new album material after all – so very much a relief!  Then it was a day of chilling – for the second time this year there was going to be a gig that was easily taxiable from home!  Indeed, had the day gone fully to plan then Simon would’ve given us a lift but unfortunately couldn’t make it up to stay, so I booked a taxi and loafed – Becki arrived, we had pizza and honey rum and coke and eventually hopped in a cab to Tower Brewery in Burton on Trent down the road.

Upon arrival soundchecking was going on – but outside Dave, Caroline and Murphy had already set up camp outside – with Russ and Michelle arriving shortly after we took advantage of the sunshine and sat outside enjoying a drink or two and a catch up.  Heaven knows what the passing motorists must’ve thought as we sat there.  Gradually as more and more folk arrived we headed into the venue – it’s a great venue, a high stage by the front, a bar at the back, some seating, a balcony and an irresistible spiral staircase makes for some interesting photo angles!

First up was Mr Jonny Wallis, talking to him outside he was pretty excited to be having a chance to play a set which was – all but one – a whole collection of his own material.  He got the cover out the way straight away, going for a Levellers song but no.  No.  It wasn’t Julie. (Despite a few shouts from the crowd, ha!).  He went for a lovely rendition of The Boatman instead.  I remember from last year that the sound can be a challenge in this venue, but Dan was going a great job on the mixing desk to my ears.  Despite getting over a spot of Rockstock flu Jonny was sounding bang on form too.

“What the f**k’s he doing up there?” Jonny Wallis, 2017

Next up was Locked Up and at Bay, it’s a great song – not one that made it on to his EP, maybe one for a future recording session – then it was pretty much a run through of The Year of the Fox (but on shuffle).  Light the Darkness was up first, followed by the very moving Goodnight Lullaby – the great thing about the crowd in was how they were quiet whilst this delicate song was on.  He kicked things up a notch with OFSTED – that wonderfully empassioned lambast against the agency supposedly charged with monitoring and improving the standards in education.

With the set winding to a close there was time for Crime of Rights and finally Social Divide, which came prefixed with an excellent rant about the state of society and politics.  Another cracking set from Jonny, he’s definitely building his comfort levels on stage with his own material – and whilst of course this was a very friendly crowd, it was a substantially high up stage to be stood upon.

That wasn’t the only support we had to await either – the amazing Black Thorn reprised their support on the tour as they had in Tamworth.  I’d gone for a sneaky photo of the set list to make my life easier, only to note they immediately launched into Festive given their proximity to Bearded Theory’s site (as that’s what the song is about y’see).  So back to making notes it was!  They did actually revert to the set list after that, amusingly.  Cabin Fever was next and then Psychic Sally – they do a great job of replicating the intricacy of their album recordings live.

Silhouette was next – one of my favourites with its clever pace changes and movement from dancy to delicate.  Then it was Vin Rouge – a fun dedication to an impromptu session on cheap red wine during a rehearsal / recording session.  Their cover of Ferocious Dog’s Hell Hounds with Adam on vocals prompted a mini-moshpit which was fun to partake in, even if the slippy for left me prone after being hauled up after the ‘take me down’ bit was over – oh well, just a bruised elbow to show for it!

I took a restorative trip to the bar for Fat Freddy, then signature tune Catch me if you can was next – an excellent set winding to a close with Drinking from the Bottle and finally Slaves.  I was standing with Leylines drummer Dave toward the end of the set who was really taken with their performance – we both agreed that there’s a real mainstream potential for them, as they’re doing something really rather different than anything that’s out there (at least that I’m aware of).  As a footnote Joel had an unfortunate altercation with the wrong kind of ferocious dog after the gig – get well very soon buddy.

And then of course it was time for The Leylines, who launched into Stone Circle to get the crowd dancing from the off which merges straight into You’ve Changed. They were as energetic as ever – the sound quality, which had been a bit ropey last year (although more so for The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican who supported than The Leylines to be fair), was excellent to my non-audiophile ears.

Sorry My Friends was next before relative new song that is now definitely in the realms of über familiar now, In Your Shadow is a really moving song with its gentle guitar work and haunting vocals, before the very familiar Let it Go.  It occured to me at this point I’ve been to so many dates on their tour I seem to have begun to absorb by some kind of osmosis, and since the lovely Save Your Soul was up next I found the not-seen-in-too-long Mr Addie Burns for a cuddle, along with most of the rest of the room.  He ended up in a circle of us dancing with Jane which was quite touching really!

Standing by the Waterside is another new-but-doesn’t-seem-quite-so-new-now songs, followed up by my favourite My Own Worst Enemy – a song that never fails to get the hairs on the neck standing with its spine-tingling finish.  Unusually Long Way From Home didn’t seem quite so apt as usual, so I took the opportunity to go for a trip up the spiral staircase right the way into the attic area which gives the great chance for you to completely overlook the stage for a unique perspective of the act.  It still sounded really good up there too!  So I decided to film Fly Away from up there (heeding Steve’s warning to not drop my phone when he’d spotted where I was!).

Back down on the ground floor the government was in for a lambasting with Things I Know, and then it was on to the still unnamed Hannah’s Song (very graciously temporarily designated Alan’s Song for the night since I seemed to catch her eye as she was explaining the situation).  It’s such a good song, it does deserve a name – it seems that it will take some kind of Never-ending Story type quest that will ultimately culminate in some lonely reader of the tale being given the opportunity to grand the song its name – hopefully in time for album number two!

For Queen and Country always gets a passionate response from the crowd, particularly those ex-service people amongst us.  It’s hard not to be swept away by the sentiment.  It was also a signal of the set winding to a close – Ella was summoned to take the stage for Run for Cover, unusually she actually didn’t shy away from the microphone so we could hear her excellent backing vocals (usually ending with a glance and signal over to Hannah that it had been a job well done – quite sweet really!) – it was an epic way to finish the set proper.

A token putting down of instruments was soon put paid to by the roars from the crowd for more, leading to the inevitable encore of Sat in a Field to end the show on a real high.  We had a chance to mingle with folk and grab another drink before the cursedly slightly-early arrival of the taxi we’d booked – half wish I’d booked it a little later, although judging by how quickly I nodded off on the sofa when we got home perhaps it wasn’t the worst idea in the world to head home when we did!  An excellent evening – three brilliant acts in a superb venue with wonderful folk for company.

I hope a few more acts get the idea of playing at Tower Brewery!

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