Doug Tielli - Capstone Theatre
Live Review

Doug Tielli – Capstone Theatre, Liverpool

It’s always a pleasure to visit the Capstone Theatre, quickly becoming one of our favourite low key Liverpool venues, tucked away on the quiet side of town and part of the Liverpool Hope Campus. First up tonight, it’s the turn of Canadian guitarist and songwriter Doug Tielli to light up the cosy room with a selection of tracks from his new album Keresley.

The release is named after the village-come-suburb, Keresley, on the outskirts of Coventry England, where, after a short U.K. tour, Doug took up temporary residence after missing a flight back to his home in Toronto. He spent the next two months walking a dog, drawing, dreaming, and recording what turned out to be an incredibly ambitious experimental journey through wide open vistas of genre, trekking across musical boundaries like an intrepid sonic explorer.

Cutting a slightly awkward and shambolic figure (as all the best always do) in his loose-fitting clothes with shoeless, red-socked feet and a great mop of curly brown hair, it becomes abundantly and immediately clear that here is man with real talent.

Tielli’s music is both unusual and familiar, with hints of traditional American, African, British and Brazilian music combining in a heady cocktail of, at times, freeform experimentation. The main star of this show isn’t the musicianship though; that accolade goes to Tielli’s syrupy and fragile vocal, expertly weaving a common thread through his occasionally rambling musical passages. Unfortunately not quite as arresting and absorbing tonight as he is on record, possibly due to the lack of layers and roundness a full band would have provided, there are still some spine tingling moments and the deliciously gentle humour of a song about the worries of cows leaves us with a lasting smile.

Let’s get this straight now – we came for Doug, but we stayed for Mike Heron & Trembling Bells. Part of us wishes that we hadn’t. Whilst Trembling Bells are an absolute tour de force of freeform improvisation and traditional folk with expert musicianship and sparkling song writing talent (not to mention the incredible vocals of Lavinia Blackwall) it was painful to watch a 70 year old Mike Heron going through the motions and reliving his psychedelic youth in The Incredible String Band. More than anything, it was hard not to feel sympathy for a bunch of young, hopeful musicians who were contending with a washed up voice, terrible stage patter and a sort of deluded belief in a no-longer present talent.

The result was a disjointed and awkward feeling set of self-indulgent material, punctuated by flashes of brilliance whenever Heron vacated the stage and let the real stars of the performance shine. We will definitely be seeing Trembling Bells again soon, though we’re hoping Heron might have gone back to the day job by then.

Venue: Capstone Theatre, Liverpool
Support Band: Mike Heron & Trembling Bells

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