A small and extremely privileged audience were treated to a tour-de-force performance on Monday night from some very gifted artists. The gig listing was less than informative, which may have explained why it ended up with so few of us there, almost like a private party. However, headline artists who regularly perform at Hollywood’s Hotel Cafe deserve to be heard by a far wider audience than this, and the support wasn’t too dusty either.
Gavin Thorpe a Bristol based singer-songwriter opened the proceedings with material from his forthcoming debut album ‘Pictures’ (out early next year). My first reaction was that he sounded a lot like David Gray. That he was a very competent musician and ought to have a wide appeal. If that assessment is inclined to put you off, then let me reassure you that he is no mere clone. His vocals may be similar but he is his own man, and, to my ears at least, infinitely more interesting. His single ‘Out of Place’, released 19th November, is catchy and accessible with a great rhythm. It is deserving of air time on any radio station and it would be really interesting to see him when there is a larger audience to interact with.
Taking one look at the stage and at us, Jim Bianco and co-performer Brad Gordon decided to forgo plugging in for the time being and began their set in the middle of the audience. First reaction, WOW!. These guys knocked my socks off. Brad seems to be able to play anything that’s not nailed down (and I wouldn’t put it past him to try things that were). Jim’s vocals, whilst clearly owing something to both Loudon Wainwright and Miles Davis (yes, really) are unique. The lyrics are fun and the performance was conspiratorial. The musical style? Well, there are many adjectives to describe Jim Bianco without actually conveying the experience. But let’s try. Quirky is perhaps overused in reviews, but it certainly fits here. There’s no particular genre that fits, there’s jazz influences, a little bit of klezmer sound creeps in now and then – and perhaps even some burlesque …. whatever you call it, it’s fun and it’s special. Check out the album ‘Handsome Devil’
Eventually they do mount the stage because they need the keyboards, but the intimate atmosphere they have created with their strolling player routine is retained. When Steve Reynolds joined them on stage for a number I realised that this was shaping up to be an incredible evening.
Steve Reynolds hails from Vancouver, but now lives in Echo Park near Los Angeles, LA’s gain is definitely Vancouver’s loss. He has one album out already titled ‘Exile’ and another about to be released. Whilst his style is more easily categorised as acoustic folk it’s no simple affair. Deciding not to leave an interlude after Jim Bianco’s set he builds on the momentum with ease. He’s warm and funny, interacting with the audience as though he’s known us a while, we’re old friends. Then he strikes up with his guitar and takes it to a whole new level. ‘Dear Rose’ is sweet and sad, and ‘Miner’s Lamp’ is story telling with inner vision. He’s a phenomenal guitarist – sounding like a hybrid of Paul Simon and Leo Kottke with added turbo drive. His voice is his own. We’re swept away of a river of sound. It’s like being inside the song. Intimate and all embracing, producing an emotional response that catches me off guard. I have begun to breathe in time with the rhythm – this stuff gets inside you all right and it’s a real wrench when the last note on the final chord fades away.
It’s been terrific tonight and I want to spread the good vibes to the world. Don’t let these guys remain a secret. Get yourself, preferably with a few mates in tow, along to one of the remaining gigs on this tour. Check out the albums, spoil yourselves.
Pictured: Gavin Thorpe by David A. Curtis