Howie Payne

Harvest Sun @ LEAF 18/11/15

The triumphant homecoming is a well-worn cliche in music, but nonetheless these shows often  prove special with a crowd comprising of family and fans who have been there from day one wanting to wish the artist well and celebrate their success. HOWIE PAYNE hasn’t played on home turf for over three years and there is an air of anticipation before he takes to the stage in this most perfect of venues.

The former Stands man, has uprooted to London since his days playing in one of the most lauded bands of the Bandwagon ‘Scousedelia’ scene of the early noughties. And between times he recorded his only solo album with legendary producer Ethan Johns, the criminally over-looked Bright Light Ballads in 2009. Nowadays Payne lends his songwriting talents to other performers, taking a backseat as artists such as Ren Harvey and Benjamin Francis Leftwich enjoy the fruits of his labour.

It is all the more special, therefore, to see this talent back where he belongs – in every sense of the phrase. Payne is sincere in his gratitude to all who have filled Leaf today and the feeling is obviously mutual as there is silence for each well-crafted sepia-tinged americana ballad. A rare occurrence for this venue.

Album opener Dangling Thread sets the tone with delicate finger-picked guitar and Dylanesque vocal holding the room. Payne then introduced us to his new day job with a rendition of Harvieu’s Holding On penned by the Scouse songsmith.

Between songs Payne is genial with a bygone accent only heard in documentaries of Liverpool in the 1960s. While he is obviously indebted to musicians of that period, there is a timelessness to his writing which will always be welcomed by those enamoured by the craft of songwriting. The set is a flowing combination of solo songs, newies, and Stands favourites. Understandably, Here She Comes Again and I Need You from the erstwhile Zanzibar darlings’ catalogue get the best reception of the night.

But tonight isn’t just a trip down memory lane to a time when a certain brand of Scouse pop ruled supreme, it is a celebration of great songs. One man complete with acoustic guitar and harmonic warmed a sizeable crowd on a cold November night and when someone has honed his craft as Howie Payne has that’s all it takes. You’re welcome home any time Mr Payne.

Sam Turner / @samturner1984

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