- Tom Blackwell
In the warm ambience of Leaf’s large upstairs space, a small crowd is gathering in anticipation of the night’s unravelling. The small bustle reduces to a hushed silence as opening act ROY approaches the stage. This guy has a humble charm and comes bearing stories of insight and hilarity. We’re treated to two stories of his mostly factual or semi-autobiographical work. These are stark images of the real world come from Roy’s philosophy of writing about only what he knows. And what does he know? He knows what only those with a keen eye for observing life’s nuances would know. What only someone who can understand a person’s character and behaviour would know. He also knows that he could manage Everton 10 times better than that Moyes fella ever could have. Full of the common man’s charm and with a charismatic fondness for regaling tales of real life, Roy wins the crowd over and leaves us all laughing.
As the easy-going feel of the evening develops, folk artist TOM BLACKWELL moves seamlessly in. His set feels slightly contrived and unoriginal, although he has no problem with winning the audience over. His sound is typically folk – hushed, slightly hoarse vocals over earthy and stripped-back guitar work. The physical performance is captivating, but somehow his music seems somewhat imitational. He sings in an accent that is clearly affected and his style hovers dangerously close to the realm of the cliché. However, it’s a solid set of folk balladry that leaves the crowd, all except one member, ecstatic and wanting more.
Tonight’s headliner, NICK ELLIS, arrives on stage after a short break. This show is a celebration. His new EP, Grace And Danger, is receiving its official launch tonight at this very show and Ellis is on top form to mark the occasion, playing through the high points of his new EP (Cooler Than A Cupid) and even dropping in his own consummate re-working of the Bunnymen’s Lips Like Sugar. Ellis’ guitar work transcends the folk category and enters into something more complex, rhythmic and unique. Aspects of his guitar playing-style bare resemblance to the likes of John Martyn and he has a clear mark of sincerity in the way that he behaves. His whole persona, voice, guitar playing and physical character seem to offer something direct from his heart. Tonight’s set carries the weight of a musician who understands that his voice is his weapon. His lyrics and his voice give the impression that Ellis is imparting wisdom through his song, that he’s expressing that which he feels is of the utmost importance. Ellis has done himself, and his city, proud.