Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Pete Williams @ The Glee Club, Tuesday 21st February

Why does a guy (and a fellow Bearwoodian as well)with so much obvious talent take so long (30 odd years) to record and release his debut solo album eh? Life, with all of its varied ups, downs and side to sides seems to be the culprit. The benefit of waiting three decades or so is clear when you listen to the songs though. Here’s a man who’s been through the mill a bit, personally and professionally, giving the songs on his awesome debut album, See, and tonight’s performance the kind of emotional depth that just can’t be faked.

That voice is equally rich and, if there’s a hint of Kevin Rowland there that’s not really a surprise, I’m guessing the two of them influenced each other back in the day. You can’t ignore the Dexy’s influence of course, and why should you? Pete was clearly a key member of the original line up and he played an even bigger role in the band’s 2003 comeback tour (he’s poised to do the same in the latest incarnation of Dexys). The passion, emotion and soul that made that band so great burns every bit as brightly in Williams.

Predictably the gig had sold out. It deserved to. I was expecting great things from the show but from the opening bars of Reconsider This I found myself mouthing a silent “wow” to no one in particular. Backed by a band of equally accomplished musicians (including members of both Richard Hawley and Imelda May’s bands) Williams and co unveiled the fruits of their labours. From the regret laden Reconsider This through to the organ driven soul shuffle of Questions and on to the last chance saloon anthem Until We Empty Off This Bottle (with echoes of the great Jacque Brel’s Ne Me Quitte Pas) it was a frequently emotionally raw soundtrack to life and all its battles. Highlights popped up behind every note but the jazz tinged Are You Listening? a son’s acknowledgment of his dad’s influence on his life, achieved that rare trick of being genuinely touching without descending into schmaltz. That’s a skill few writers or performers possess. There’s a touch of the classic torch singer to Pete’s performance, that expressive total commitment to the moment, and watching it you could almost see 30 years of pent up frustration fly out of him. He’s been sitting on these songs for so long that every word fizzes like a newly poured glass of Champagne, oh alright then, given the down at heel feel of much of the material maybe Cava’s a better bet. You get the point though. I’ve seen performers half Pete’s age struggle to muster such passion out of their songs and this from a dude who has every right to be more than a little jaded with the whole shitty music biz. This gig and the album it showcased revealed a seriously great artist who’s been living in the shadows for far too long. With Dexys gearing up for the biggest come back since Lazarus it would be a real shame if we had to wait another 30 years for the next instalment.

Believe the hype. See Pete live in Sheffield (28th February), Manchester (29th February) and at the Hare & Hounds on Friday 13th April.

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