Ben Ottewell, Natalie McCool, Johnny Sands: The Magnet, Liverpool

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Ben Ottewell

Ben Ottewell

Deep in the heart of The Magnet, Getintothis’ Craig MacDonald was treated to a stripped back night of music with Gomez frontman Ben Ottewell.

A person’s voice can be such a powerful instrument, unlike any other. It can make us laugh, it can make us cry and it can even make us angry at times. As one of the lead singers and guitarists in Gomez, our chief instigator on this night of song is definitely someone who possesses that much envied talent. Helming from Southport, Ben Ottewell is what many would associate the main ingredient in what makes Gomez the genre spanning entity that dips its toes into blues, folk, indie and jazz.

Since the group’s last release, Whatever’s On Your Mind in 2011, Ben Ottewell has been busy carving a name for himself in his own right with last year’s crowd-funded Rattlebag following on with equal acclaim to first effort, Shapes and Shadows. Both of these have provided a platform for the bearded gent to feed the appetite that his following craves with his bombarding big blast of vocals. Following a much praised stint across the pond in the USA, including an appearance at SXSW, EVOL brought the hirsute singer back to a welcoming rabble in the depths of The Magnet.

Much like tonight’s headline act, both supporting artists have a voice that is instantly addictive to the ear from the second you hear them with the tunes to match.

First up, Johnny Sands introduces us to his simplistic melodies, creating images of being stranded on a remote beach waiting for the night to cover us with its canopy. Sadly, the audience are also equally as remote to begin with but by the time his set ends with the Foals tinged Turn Me To Gold, he has captivated those who were lucky enough to have witnessed him.

Next up is the well-honed sound of Natalie McCool with her instant presence commanding our attention. Addressing the trepidation of her audience, an enchanting cover of Billy Fury’s Wondrous Place magnetises the room and with it each song the crowd swells to her every note. Stripped back to the bare bones, the usually electronic Pins is stunning and shows exactly why a lot more fuss should be made of the vastly talented lady. The temptress leads us into a sing song on new track Fortress, epitomising the camp fire feeling to the evening before making way for her bewhiskered hero.

Kicking things off with the title track to his latest album, Rattlebag is the perfect example of the sheer power that lies within Ben Ottewell. The soulful desperation cries out to his audience reminding them of the reason why he touches so many with his emotive song writing prowess. On Free to Run, the gentle giant throws kindling to the fire when announcing this to be the first song he ever wrote.

As the set unfolds, you do get the feeling that Ottewell travels over the years have made him a wise storyteller but somehow making his fans the narrator to his tales. The ode to yester years on So Slow makes you feel like an old friend looking back to a time that gave fond memories you hold onto but now sadly in the past.

The traditional well inebriated muppet in the audience tests the frontman and crowds’ patience at times during the set; to the point whereby you get the impression he is obliged to play Chicago from his first album but thankfully it leads us swiftly into one of a number of Gomez songs in the evening in Get Miles. To think that such a song came from a time when the masses were all under the brainwashed 90s spill of Britpop is nothing short of astounding, as is the delivery from its creator.

The set ends with a raptures rendition of Tijuana Lady, grainy and rough yet compelling, it’s a perfect end to an evening that has highlighted the power that a stripped back sound can have. Although many may know and indeed go and see Ben Ottewell for his earlier work with his band mates, tonight he has shown that on his own he is a mountain of songmanship that will continue to influence many.

Pictures by Getintothis’ Chris Flack.

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