LIMF’s Commissions opens with a night of collaboration as a star-studded line up takes to St George’s Hall, Getintothis’ Steph Niciu revels in the weird and wonder.
Steve Levine. You know, he’s the Grammy award winning producer who has worked with the likes of The Clash and has helped master three multi-platinum Culture Club albums. As part of Liverpool International Music Festival, he curated a live session last night in St George’s Hall, bringing together an extensive catalogue of musicians to create a truly collaborative night.
Before it had even begun, you got the feeling that this was going to be special. The venue had been transformed into something that was a cross between an intimate gig (complete with mini marquees, drooling drapes and fairy lights), outdoor festival and your neighbour’s back garden all rolled into one.
As well as the show, Levine would be producing a live song. It was a cover of Ferry Cross The Mersey that we could all download afterwards. This became a confusing part of gig, as Levine would stop the music at various points to add to track. It made for an experience that felt a little disjointed, however, the ambition and concept was a risk worth attempting. But, this all was about the music and we were in for a treat.
Kicking us off was Level 42 bassist Mark King performing a cover of Cream’s Sunshine Of Your Love. It was raw, full of growling bass and killer riffs. And despite the hall’s rattling rumble amid the difficult acoustics, it got the night off to a fantastic start.
And then came the girls. Homegrown talent Natalie McCool, Mary Epworth and Hollie Cook (daughter of the Sex Pistols‘ Paul Cook). They had individual sets but were helped by each other on backing vocals and top producer Bernard Butler added some extra bite to the tracks with his guitar. Standouts were the belting drums of McCool’s Thin Air and her haunting vocals on the Duffy cover Syrup and Honey. Epworth’s big, brash and raging Black Doe was fabulous. Hollie Cook had her reggae meets disco sound. She kept a chilled vibe with songs like Postman and her delicious vocals had you hooked.
It was The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess who received the best reaction from the crowd during the night with Oh Men and an acoustic reworked rendition of The Only One I Know. Later on, Burgess, resplendent in turquoise jacket, bleach-blonde bowl cut plus rubber sandals and white socks (!), collaborated with Boy George on Satellite of Love which demonstrated real musicianship.
Headliner Boy George came out dressed in a Cami outfit and a red hat. His charisma and charm was something that helped send the night go off with a bang. Tracks such as My God and a sublime acoustic version of Knockin On Heaven’s Door with Eve Gallagher delivering a powerhouse vocal, made it an utter delight. And then there was outstanding guitar from John Themis throughout the set, which was simply epic. Of course, there were Culture Club classics with a twist, as he played a blues version of Do You Really Want to Me and brought the night to a close with hits such as Get It On so that crowd could have a good ol’ dance.
This was a wonderfully weird night of truly unforgettable collaborations. Something that will stay with those that came for a long time coming.
Pictures by Michael Sheerin