Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Live in 2016: Blair Dunlop live at All Saints Church, Llandaff, Cardiff on Saturday 2nd July 2016

This was the second time this year that I have seen Blair Dunlop on his 2016 Tour in support of his latest album Gilded.
The show was the closing event of this year's Llandaff North Festival and it could not have been in a more inspired venue.
Gigs in churches are notoriously difficult in terms of sound but I'm happy to report that tonight the guys at All Saints Church had it spot on.
The show was opened tonight by Swansea's Eleri Angharad

Armed with just an acoustic guitar - the only way to travel - she performed an eight song set.
Eleri has just released her new EP, All I Can Do, - available here - Eleri Angharad Shop

Her approach is sweet and subtle and she was suitably rewarded with an attentive audience and enthusiastic appreciation.
She performed songs tonight including Stuck On You, Play A Game, Fuel, Five Years Old and a cover of The Ronette's Be My Baby - a good choice and well interpreted.
She ended with a lovely self penned song called Liverpool.

If she carries on writing songs with quality then I see a bright future ahead of her.
So after a short break and fresh from his Glastonbury Acoustic Stage performance, Blair took to the stage with his two friends and fellow musicians Jacob Stoney on Keyboards and vocals and Fred Claridge on Drums, Percussion and vocals.

It never ceases to amaze me how such a small band can produce such a fabulous sound. Think of all the amazing trios that have been around - ELP, The Police, Cream, etc and it just goes to show that you don't need to fill a stage with musicians to get a fabulous live sound. Some times, keeping it simple pays dividends.
Blair chose this approach on Gilded and it pays off in spades when the band play the Gilded songs live as they are pretty much as you hear on the record. Good move.
Tonight was heavily biased in favour of his new album, Gilded although the boys did pull a few older ones out of the hat.
The set opened with Gilded's opening track Castello.

Throughout the evening, Blair switches between his two acoustic guitars and his Telecaster as the songs dictate.

Having first seen him live on the tour for his debut album, Blight & Blossom, it's great to see him, excuse the pun, 'blossom' into such a confident and likeable stage performer. Throughout the evening he banters both with the audience and the band.
Playing 356 he explains how he and Fred were visiting the expensive car showrooms in his now hometown of London and got the idea for the song from these visits.

First World Problem follows and then Blair goes on to play The Egoist, which at the time of writing is getting some heavy rotation on BBC Radio 2 and I couldn't be happier for him. He seems genuinely pleased and excited to be getting such prestigious UK airplay.

The Gilded album is a beautiful piece of work and showcases his growing songwriting prowess. From gorgeous ballads to uplifting melodies, it contains his best songwritinng to date.
The gentle Temper Your Smiling comes next before Jacob and Fred leave the stage to Blair and his acoustic.

Alone on the stage, his small frame hides a deeper and growing maturity as a songwriter, especially in his lyrics, which are growing about as far from Moon, Spoon, June as you can get.

He then performed No Go Zones from Gilded.
Next up, we have a request for the song he recently played live in session on Richard Madeley's Sunday Morning Show on BBC Radio 2 - a really excellent cover of Springsteen's Dancing In The Dark - which brought rapturous applause from tonight's audience.

One of the highlight's from his debut album, Blight & Blossom, is the traditional Black Is The Colour. Blair performs this next and it's good to see him acknowledging his folk roots. But now he is SO much more than a folk singer and interepreter of other people's songs.
My favourite song on Gilded is Eternal Optimist - which Blair dedicates to myself. Such a nice thing to do and much appreciated by this audience member.

With the dying sunlight of the day now streaming through the gorgeous stained glass windows of the church and the lights of the candles scattered around, the atmosphere was now quite magical.
With only a small selection of the older songs getting an airing tonight it was good to hear the lovely Chain By Design from his sophomore album, House Of Jacks.
It's superb to see just how much Blair has grown as a guitarist. Seeing him so accomplished already makes me glad and sad in equal measures. Glad to see him perfecting his instrument and sad because I won't be around to see how good he'll become when he's in his 60s+ and I'm at the Great Gig In The Sky.

I mentioned earlier how Blair is growing as a lyricist also and seeks out new and interesting ideas.
The next song Blair performed this evening is called Up On Cragside.  (I'll leave you check out the references for the song yourselves, Cragside)
It also gives Blair a chance to 'Rock Out' a bit and finish the set on a high.
An encore was always on the cards and the band returned and performed a splendid version of
45s (C'14) from House Of Jacks. And any song that references a Rickenbacker gets a thumbs up from me.

A big shout out to both Jacob and Fred who have supported their friend admirably throughout tonight's performance being both stable and complementing Blair's sound to glorious effect.
With two songs left to perform, Blair turns once again to the House Of Jacks album and chooses the delicate 50 Shades of Blue and taking requests for the closing track - we got a special shout out for Blair's song about his other passion, football, with the song The Ballad Of Enzo Laviano.

Tonight's performance was the best I've seen Blair perform live. His ability and stage mastery grow with each year.
If he keeps growing in stature, he'll soon be up there with his heroes like Jackson Browne and gigs of this intimacy will be a rare thing indeed.
My advice? Get to see him as soon as you can before he gets so big that the only way you'll see him is on a large screen in an arena.

Don't say I didn't tell you.


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