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Neil Halstead - Musician, Leicester, 15/1/2014

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 15 / 1 / 2014

Neil Halstead - Musician, Leicester, 15/1/2014


Anthony Strutt finds understated but powerful an evening of acoustic country/folk rock from Peter Bruntnell, Neil Halstead and Danny George Wilson on the first date of their Songwriters' Circle tour at The Musician in Leicester

Tonight's Songwriters’ Circle tour is the first of four nights that take in Leicester, Winchester, Tingewick and finally Swansea. A Songwriters’ Circle show is different from other shows as it gets musicians together, who have not often worked together or even met before to perform on each other’s material. I am aware of the talent beforehand of the talent soon to appear in front of me on stage. I have followed Neil Halstead from 1989, originally in Pumpkin Fairies whom recorded two demo tapes before they reformed as Slowdive, where they recorded three albums for Creation in four years. They then regrouped under the name of Mojave 3, changed direction and joined 4AD where they recorded five albums for that label, Neil has also recorded three solo albums to date,. He has a new live album due out this year, and just released an eponymous album with his new band, Black Hearted Brother. Peter Bruntnell is a strong solid singer-songwriter whom I have seen now several times, and have enjoyed the albums I have heard. His latst album ‘Retrospective’ is a “best of”, which compiles together tracks from all nine of his studio albums. I interviewed Danny George Wilson, the third singer-songwriter on the bill, when his then band Grand Drive released their debut single, ‘Tell It Like It is’, in 1997. Grand Drive also featured Danny’s brother Julian, who at the time was also a member of Gene, and released five albums during the next ten years. Since then Danny has fronted a new band Danny and the Champions of the World, whom have recorded another four albums. Tonight's Songwriters’ Circle show is pretty much a muso's dream, featuring very talented folk based musicians playing to a hardcore audience who know that what they will hear is very special. And that exactly what we get. For some reason guys that play acoustic usually guitars have beards and tonight all three do, and two out of three are also wearing checked shirts as well. All three have never met before, but both Peter and Danny are on the same record label, Loose Music. Neil, who is currently on Sonic Cathedral with Black Hearted Brother, would also be at home there. Danny is a regular at the nearby venue The Donkey, and Peter is not shy of Leicester neither, Neil on the other hand hasn't played there since October 2006. Tonight is a folk master class on how to play that six-string acoustic beast and do it so effortlessly well. The audience, who are largely mature, are neatly squeezed in between their pints at little round tables, and the wooden chairs around the front of the stage. The music aired tonight spans across the last twenty odd years, so there is a well to dig deep from. Each artist does a song, and then it's the next’s turn, to which, say, Peter might add additional drone or someone else a shaker, As they are all new to this, this being the first night, they decide on doing four songs each in turn, then to take a brief break and then another four. Neil digs into both his Mojave 3 back catalogue, and delivers crystal versions of ‘Yer Feet’, and Who Do You Love?’, as well as six solo songs that come from his three solo albums. Peter Bruntnell, who is dressed in black, bears a mouth organ along with his drone. His songs are very emotional and heartfelt. The simple way he plays reminds me of early 1970’s Neil Young, while he tells mini stories wrapped up in song form. Danny has changed a lot from his Grand Drive days, He now works in a tattoo shop when he isn’t touring, has them, and he has a very,down-to-earth and likeable manner. His songs, like those of Peter, have an Americana edge, and tell of growing up, having an Australian Dad land liking a drink. While these are common enough themes for folk artists, here they take you away from the wet night outside. Several numbers have a space age theme, and Danny also brings a soul edge to the night. They do two sets of cool folk that for their two hours on stage eat into us and remind us of the pure beauty of the acoustic guitar. A lovely and warm introduction to the New Year!

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Neil Halstead - Musician, Leicester, 15/1/2014

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