“Well, the old town looks the same, as I get down off the train….”
Fortunately, there were no Tom Jones cover versions, but it was nonetheless homecoming time for Tom Bellamy last night as he returned to Kings Heath’s ‘ Hare & Hounds’ with his impressive new Bristol-based band to launch the ‘Beauty from Ashes’ EP.
After excellent support from Sennen & Paul Waterman, Tom took to the stage alone and played a brisk 5-song set that featured staples like ‘So long suburbia’ and ‘Ghost Songs’ along with newer material such as ‘By the pulse of midnight’. There was also time for an audience participation section as Tom asked people to nominate a title for a really good 2-year old song that still doesn’t have a name, but which, due to the unique privilege afforded to self-opinionated bloggers (and let’s face it, is there any other variety?) I’m going to christen ‘Breath of December’.
Nice shirt, Tom…….
Tom was then joined by the House Band of Ollie (bass), Eddy (vocals), Lizzy (‘cello), Dan (drums) and Matt (guitar), who have clearly been working hard since I saw them in Bristol a few weeks back. Probably they were helped by the fact that the sound was excellent but the impression was nonetheless of a band who are trying to produce the kind of sympathetic backing that Tom’s music needs & deserves. What particularly impressed me was the way in which instruments would drop in and out according to the requirements of the song. Sometimes the bass would anchor everything whilst at other times Lizzy’s cello provided an underpinning backdrop. Drums and guitar were used sparingly and the whole ‘feel’ of the ensemble is far from the rock’n’roll mantra of everyone playing as loud as possible all the time. Once Tom starts writing new material with this group in mind, rather than adapting older material, then the results should start becoming even more interesting.
Anyway, a 7-song set (plus deserved encore) again gave us some new songs – Eddy Day-Clarke handling the vocal for ‘All my days’, then joining Tom for as good a rendition of ‘Fear of Falling’ as I’ve ever heard them deliver. All the other tracks from the EP got an airing as well, with a sprightly version of ‘She knows’ and with the band sounding particularly at home on ‘Angel Creek’. Tom then delivered a tremendous version of ‘Our Street’ accompanied for much of the time only by Lizzy’s ominous cello. This is a song that just gets better every time I hear it.
Tom & the House Band in full flow
The set was bookended by ‘Astoria ‘ and an encore of ‘The Striking’, after which it was heads down and a major race to get everyone across the road and into the ‘Sylhet’ curry house before it closed. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits afterwards, mainly because I think everyone felt that it had been not just OK, but actually a really good gig. Also, I suppose for the House Band there was an element of relief in having overcome any uncertainty they might have had in not playing in front of a familiar Bristol audience, but they seemed very happy with the outcome, perhaps because I think they felt (with considerable justification) that they came through with flying colours. The curry was great as well…….
A final word of thanks must go to the unsinkable Eddy Day-Clarke (ably assisted by The Bossy Headmistress) , without whose considerable input, the whole thing would have been a shambles. Thanks Eddy for keeping all the ducks in a row and for organising and liaising so effectively. I hope they appreciate you!