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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Live Review: Richard Dawson, The Head Of Steam, Newcastle, 1/4/2013

I'm too wrapped up in rigid routines to make any meaningful New Year's resolutions, so most of my pledges for 2013 bear a distinct theme of continuation. Among them is my will to catch as much live music as feasibly possible, a quest which began last Friday in the familiar setting of Newcastle's Head Of Steam, with a lineup consisting of two of the region's more promising up-and-coming acts alongside the slightly more established creature that is Richard Dawson. Grander, more prestigious events may lie in wait during the next 12 months, though as this gig proved the notion of a low-key, intimate performance can be a difficult one to beat.

Shuffling uneasily into the spotlight, Tom Hollingworth, aka The Running Chelsea hardly cut a figure about to immerse his audience in an unsettling and enveloping mirage of sound. That, however, is exactly what his layered, loop-aided creations winded up doing, even if their first objective was to paper over his decidedly jittery demeanor as well as the odd awkward lyric. The more simplistic acoustic numbers also carried shades of promise, but it was their technologically aided counterparts which suggested imminent LP In The Future We Will Spinn should, at the very least be worthy of investigation. If Hollingworth represented something of a rough diamond, Kate Edward, the woman who followed him onstage, positively gleamed by comparison. Now leading her own project Agerskow, the former Brilliant Mind member's sultry-sweet pop songs shone like beaming flares in this dingy basement venue, bordering on the type of pure, unashamed loveliness Belle & Sebastian mastered at the peak of their powers. It's the type of music you'd label "twee" were it not for that word's rash-like connotations; an aural pleasure which, whilst undeniably tender also contained no little in the way of substance, a fact displayed most explicitly by delightful new single "This Train Terminates."

The virtual antithesis of twee, Richard Dawson's gruff, unassuming nature has played a huge role in enriching the five defiantly lo-fi records he's mustered to date, and profits to an even greater extent in his live renditions. With a new album, The Glass Trunk, due in April, the tonight's setlist was very much a mixture of old and new - each category consisting of his own compositions alongside the old Northumberland folk songs he takes so much joy in digging up. It was, in fact, one of the fresh numbers which hit hardest; the slightly disturbing traditional number "Poor Old Horse" soaring in a surreal a cappella guise, its character only enhanced by the bum notes and voice breaks which littered its performance. Eclectic, perversely hilarious and fabulously imperfect, evenings with Richard Dawson are among the best the North East scene currently has to offer, and I for one can't wait until his next appearance.

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The Running Chelsea
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Agerskow
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Richard Dawson
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