Only Child ft. Liva String Quartet, Jon Lawton, Silens, Vanessa Murray: The Zanzibar, Liverpool

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only child live zanzibar
Only Child launch their latest album at the Zanzibar, Getintothis’ Matthew Crist is positively bowled over.


Enjoy yourself,‘ proclaims Alan O’Hare as he strides onto The Zanzibar stage. ‘We certainly will…
But for anyone who has seen him and his band live before, they know this instruction is pointless – as Only Child have quickly become one of the liveliest and energetic acts around, with a bundle of top tunes to match.
On an evening that’s all about the launch of their new album – From Muddy Water to Higher Ground – not only is O’Hare flanked by his trusty lieutenant and fiddle player Laura McKinlay, but a full band complete with string quartet.
only child alan o'hare zanzibar
Alan O’Hare with Vanessa Murray of Only Child performing live at The Zanzibar
Sure, there’s always the risk that when a large number of musicians are assembled that the songs can be drowned out and ultimately ruined. But not tonight. Far from it.
Think Dylan meets Dexys and you’re getting warm, as greater musical accompaniment serves to enhance what has become a notable collection of finely crafted songs, all delivered by a frontman who lives and breathes every word. O’Hare and his guitar would take on the world in this mood, putting right the many wrongs he sings so passionately about.
And therein lays the secret: as Morrissey once said, ‘only seals perform,‘ and everyone playing here tonight loves what they are doing. That’s the act. No pretence. And for an artist who so often performs (sorry, plays) alone, O’Hare seems to thrive on fronting such a large band, acting as a maestro throughout and conducting those behind him impeccably with the merest of nods and knowing looks. Each offering the response he craves.
only child big band live zanzibar
Only Child featuring Liva String Quartet performing live at The Zanzibar
From the rip-roaring Gypsy Boy, the lullaby-like Only Child, and somewhat autobiographical St Saviour’s Square, there’s melody and attitude by the bucket load. And if there’s anyone in the room not getting into it, to hell with it, those on stage are going to have the time of their lives anyway. A heart-wrenching cover of The Waterboys hit A Man is in Love provides a welcome gear change, before a thunderous finale is provided by the marvellous Before & After.
Never one to hog the limelight, O’Hare stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of his “orchestra” for a final group bow, as the metaphorical curtain comes down on another cracking show. The only questionable part of the evening: who enjoyed themselves more, those on stage or those of us watching?
vanessa murray live zanzibar
Vanessa Murray performing live at The Zanzibar
The evening opened with a solo set from Only Child bassist, Vanessa Murray. The young singer/songwriter – currently at LIPA – captivated the early birds with her stunning vocals and catchy tunes. Fresh from singing with Operation Lightfoot at Threshold 2014, Murray is a rare talent and one to watch for the future.
silens live zanzibar
Silens performing live at The Zanzibar
Silens were next up and pumped up the volume. The three piece, including current Pete Wylie guitarist Tom Carroll, played a power set of pop punk and melodious rock ‘n’ roll, with singer Liam Devall epitomising the cool frontman.
jon lawton live zanzibar
Jon Lawton performing live at The Zanzibar
The room was getting busier as Jon Lawton – also on double duty with Only Child – and his band arrived. The Zanzibar comes into its own on nights like these, when popular local acts take over, and the atmosphere was building. Lawton and his merry men tapped into an At The Drive In vibe and rocked the house. The band were in the pocket and, with lovely harmony vocals from the drummer, this is a trio we want hear more from.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Simon Lewis
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