Sunday, 3 July 2011

Gig Review - Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat

A night of firsts all round for me on Saturday. Getting to see a live performance of one of my albums of the year so far, 'Everything's Getting Older' by Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat is treat enough (read my review here). But throw in my first ever visit to Easterhouse, and you've got me brimming with enough anticipation to kill a moose.

Held in Platform in Easterhouse, as part of the Glasgow Jazz Festival, we departed on a rather smokey bus from Mono. The venue itself was an auditorium in Platform, an arts initiative run by Glasgow City Council. My first thoughts on entering the auditorium was of an arena prepped for a fight to the death, Spock vs. Kirk style.

Jazz trombonist, Annie Whitehead took the stage first, and treated the audience to a 10 minute trombone solo. I hate to come across as uncultured, but I really didn't know what to make of it. At times it was smooth freestyle jazz, punctured by staccato, at others a powerful display of the noise this particular brass instrument can create. However, I couldn't shake the oddness of a woman essentially making fart noises with a trombone onstage. Another first I guess.

We headed upstairs to the bar, decanting our bottles into the obligatory plastic cups, and as such drank our way through Bill Wells Ensemble, who took the stage after Annie Whitehead. Heading back to the auditorium, we did however catch the end of their set, which was littered with musicians, including the afformented Whitehead, and Belle And Sebastian's own Stevie Jackson on guitar. The vibe was good, although broken up by another flatulent trombone solo. Very laid back, Parisian style jazz. The trumpet solo was much more enjoyable.

After a brief wait, the main act takes to the stage. Joined by a double bass, and trumpet, Bill Wells settles himself behind the piano, whilst Aidan Moffat flits to the front of the stage, wearing shorts and in turn making me wish I had done so. Predictably, although not in a bad way as Moffat himself acknowledges two songs in, the setlist follows the album running order. 'Tasogare' begins proceedings, leading naturally into 'Let's Stop Here', for which Moffat takes a well positioned chair. Mixing things up a bit, 'Dinner Time' get's an early airing. The forbodding feel of the song hangs in the air, coming across so much more in this small auditorium. The closing line of the song, "have ye had yer dinner yet", resonates like a joke round the room.

The joke however is short lived, as a deep thud alerts Moffat, and the audience, to the disaster at the back of the round. The double bass has snapped two strings. Don't you just hate when you forget to pack a spare double bass? The band have a short lived panic, and whilst a suitable solution is being fretted about off stage, Wells and Moffat remain to treat the crowd to an impromptu cover version of Bananarama's 'Cruel Summer'. Delivered with conviction, it's a pleasing distraction for the crowd. And timed well as emergency bass guitars are carted onstage. A huge thank you is offered by Moffat, and on behalf of myself for what was still to come, I echo that sentiment here.

Throughout proceedings Bill Wells hides behind the piano at stage left, however there is no hiding from his musicianship. Normal proceedings begin, and if anything the set-up has a more rock 'n' roll feel to it with the addition of bass guitar. A trumpet solo during the next song, harks back to the jazz festival for which we are all gathered. 'The Copper Top' is met with a ghostly hush from the audience, who are captivated by the romance and aura of one of the best songs from the album.

Another favourite of mine, 'Glasgow's Jubilee' gets it's first live airing. Moffat reminds us of a forthcoming full band tour, whilst also pointing out that the song is lacking a full band perfomance. It does miss some of the same punch as from the LP, however is still strangely hypnotising as we hear Moffat recall(?) tales of shameful, sorrid and lustful trysts. 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' is another belter of a song, and each time I listen to it, I hear something more than the last listen. Advice is bestowed upon our captive ears, and who can argue with solid tips like "look after yer teeth"?

As the gig comes to an end, we are treated to two new songs, the first about sex from a priest, the second about how life turns out exactly how it's expected. It seems strange to say, given this is the duo's first album, but it's classic Wells and Moffat. Last song of the night is album closer, 'And So We Must Rest'. A perfect close to a truely excellent showing. Sign me up for Paisley Arts Centre on October 7th.

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