Gig Review by Charles Drought

The Yew Tree in Warminster played host to the Steve Gifford Band on Friday night. The band mostly played original material with a few covers thrown into the mix at the end of their performance.

The trio inhabit that part of the hinterland of roots music which is between modern folk and country without being close to either, writes the Vulture. Geordie Trawler (dedicated to a Geordie girl from Salisbury) was closer to folk, a narrative song about a Northumbrian fisherman’s wife who waited for the fishing fleets return, and gets every penny from her husband as soon as his feet touch dry land because ‘a drinking man is one thing she doesn’t need’. There is no suggestion that the couple do not love each other.

A song which had a taste of Pink Floyd’s Wish you were here about the introduction seemed to have the title Mad World. I am sure it was not original, as I recognized it, but at the end Steve asked “by the way does anybody know the name of that song”.

Steve released bass guitarist Ian Catchpole and drummer Derek Edmond ‘to seek beer’ while he sang a couple of solo songs. About four numbers later Steve was still Building Bridges on his own. He reintroduced them, and the band reformed. After a two minute tribute to a lost father the band played St. Bartholomew’s Letter, a slow paced song which was not a dirge, but a kind of reflective eulogy; “how could you know he loved you till you read that letter from St. Bartholomew?”

Steve played a Scottish jig on harmonica “for all the Scottish folk here tonight” (I hadn’t noticed any) by way of an introduction to Working on line all night. Blue, blue, blue was not a blues song, but an enigma, with the question ‘why is the sky so blue?’ at its core.

After a 10 minute interval the band carried on with more original music for about half an hour before breaking into some covers. Some members of the audience had been requesting songs by The Eagles, and after Steve had given a very brief lesson on how to tune a ukelele, he introduced (with his tongue very firmly planted in his cheek) a very little known Eagles song about an Italian he had seen wearing a t-shirt with the name Gianni Marco Venturi on it. He had written (for of course the song was original) a back story for a fictitious playboy philanderer with that name.

Brief versions of a couple of George Formby songs were followed as midnight approached by a rock n’roll medley and I saw her standing there, which collectively brought audience members to their feet to dance.

The Steve Gifford Band do not fall into my personal ‘happy space’ at the frontier between blues and heavy rock. Nevertheless I was entertained by the class of the musicians, the accessibility of the well-crafted songs, and the relaxed, easy and friendly way in which Steve introduced and performed them.

The Yew Tree is a working pub, not a concert hall or a church so there was the usual level of background noise. This made it a little difficult to pick up the fine detail in the lyrics (although the sound system was admirably clear and the band were not too loud). The trio did not have a light show and let their music do their entertaining. There was plenty of it too for the band were already playing when I arrived at five past nine.

Two recurring lyrical themes were love (lost, yearned for, absent, sought, found, relished etc.) and searches into big enigmatic and philosophical issues.

The Yew Tree now has a fair bit of live music by named acts as well as its Sunday afternoon jam sessions, and much of it demonstrates that there is a great deal of real talent ‘out there’, far and away above what one might expect from a decent pub band. The Steve Gifford Band proved that point.

After the performance an audience member, Dave, told me “I thought they were superb, very easygoing and very easy on the ear.” I concurred, and meant it.

Charles Drought – 26th April 2013

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