REVIEW: Oxjam Acoustic @ The Central Bar
By George Sandeman on September 26, 2012 in Music
Last week, in the upstairs room of a warm Gateshead bar beside the Tyne Bridge, you would have found a group of people nursing bottles of Budvar whilst simultaneously clambering over each other for one the last few pasties. This instalment of Oxjam Acoustic Central featured singer songwriters Nev Clay and Books & Covers along with duo Skylark Song and a generous donation of baked treats from the award-winning French Oven bakery in Grainger Market.
As the cool crowd of punters took their seats and perches, they were treated to Nev Clay’s unique offering of heart-warming humour and heart-wrenching lyrics. Self-described as “clarting around the local music scene for nearly 20 years”, he possesses an armoury of side-splittingly funny couplets and soon set about set about putting smiles on the faces of all pasty-munchers present. He recalled the life of a girl he used to fancy at school in the song ‘Your Dad Sells Lighters’ and how her begging uncle used to “say he’s lost his busfare, but his pockets are jingling”.
In ‘Staff Room’ he had everyone chuckling by describing a teacher who was “in the trade union and strikes against performance pay. She sells the Socialist Worker, on Saturday afternoons. The board of governors hope she puts in for a transfer soon. The headmistress fears her, but fancies her just the same.” Casually chatting with the audience between and even during songs, Nev straddles the music and comedy divide with uniquely North Eastern aplomb marrying a less eye lined version of Tim Minchin with that really funny bloke you know in the pub.
Up next were Skylark Song consisting of Emma Davis and Alex McRae wielding a guitar, a fiddle and vocal harmonies that made your heart flutter. With a crispness of voice and violin noise that reverberated around your eardrums, the song ‘Take Your Place’ had much of the audience arrested by the piercing, addictive sounds only softened by the moments of complimentary vocal harmony. On more than one occasion, you find yourself unsure of where you are, looking at these two performing and trying to explain to yourself why you think your hearing Laura Marling’s voice meshed into guitar sounds reminiscent of John Butler Trio and Nick Drake.
Once you do eventually come to your senses, its only because you have realised Alex has a full head of curly hair and not the cascading dreads of the aforementioned John Butler. Creating an atmosphere that is simultaneously relaxed and intense, see them and expect to lose yourself for a while.
Injecting some more mainstream acoustic vibes into proceedings was the final act of the night, Books & Covers. The musical offering of local model Sam Wright, the amply chilled out crowd enjoyed a carefully crafted choice of his distinctive takes on some well known songs.
A delicate rendition of Josh Kumra’s ‘Don’t Go’ had most people locked in whilst his humorous attempt at Carly Rae Jepsen’s infamous ‘Call Me Maybe’ elicited both confused and appreciative laughter. With strong overtures of Jamie T in terms of lyrical delivery, his retelling of a night out, during which he got talking to a particularly nice girl, only to have her chatted up and whisked away by some other bloke, drew empathetic chuckles from men of similar misfortune. The strength of his own material is perhaps best gauged in ‘Us Against The World’ which typifies the soothing, easy listening feel of his performance.
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