At the end of a momentous week for The Young ‘Uns, Getintothis’ Paul Fitzgerald joined the sold out crowd at the Philharmonic Music Room for a night of Teeside folk songs, shanties, and some terrible jokes.
The Young ‘Uns, arrived fresh from a trip to the Royal Albert Hall a couple of days previously, where for the second year running, they’d collected the Best Band prize at The Radio 2 Folk Awards. Watching this show, it’s easy to see why and how. From the very off, the audience are spellbound by the close three part harmonies, and the warmth of the Teeside welcome the band gives them.
For 12 years now, since they were actual real young uns, they’ve toured and recorded extensively. They arrive on stage for the first set of two, looking for all the world like an H&M advert, with a sackful of material, from sea shanties to working class Teeside favourites, to their own songs on some dark contemporary issues, their capability and sheer musicality is clear. Happy to be in Liverpool, home of so many favoured shanties and sea songs, and the first half is peppered with a good few, among them Lindy Low. It’s a huge barrel of a sound they make, considering it comes from just three voices, these are proud voices, proud of the heritage of these songs, proud of each other’s contribution to the whole, and reactive to each other in the way that sailing high seas in hard times can bring about. They honour the history of the material, in the same way as Coope, Boyes and Simpson honour the history of the Northern mines from whence they came.
As well as a stunning, and never more appropriate cover of Billy Bragg‘s Between The Wars, the first half features a plaintive lament, based on a poem written by a soldier as he stood guard duty in the trenches, knee deep in mud, freezing and homesick as he watched lapwings fly above him and wished he could join them on their journey back to the green field of Kent. When they sing like this, The Young Uns make a beautiful hypnotic sound full of grace and subtlety. The vocal affinity is undeniable, and a closeness that continues to grow. The first half ends with a Teeside pawn shop tune. Because in The Young ‘Uns world, that’s a thing. That’s a genre.
After an interval exactly the same length as the bar queue, the three North East charmers are back, and straight into a shanty about Liverpool Judies, a right rollicking rum soaked rabble rouser of a song it is too. As the show winds on, the banter bewteen them becomes the glue that holds the show together, there’s a healthy slice of self-deprecation to be found at a Young ‘Uns show, and moments of pure hilarity, usually at the hands of David Eagle, with references to his blindness, and the awkward moments that can arise are moments of pure comedy.
Sean Cooney‘s songwriting, his addressing of contemporary issues, is as provocative as it is inspiring, and through melody, he places beauty into the darkest of subject matters. Dark Water, a quietly understated story of two men swimming across the Aegean Sea, having escaped their war-torn and devastated lives back in Syria, holds the entire room breathless, attempting to understand the feelings felt by someone experiencing that desperate situation in real-life. It is quite a moment, that leaves us stunned. Such horror, expressed so beautifully. This is the strength of Cooney‘s writing. Now that the mighty Bellowhead are no longer in the picture, it really should be a foregone conclusion that The Young ‘Uns will step up to collect many more awards, and more power to their collective elbow in that. It will be well deserved, as would your attention be to this brilliant folk band.
Support came from Irish Mythen, a diminutive folk blues rocker of a woman, proud as punch to be here in Liverpool, a dream for her as a fan of the Mighty Reds. She’s been to Anfield for the stadium tour, bought a scarf, and is like a kid in a sweet shop. From the second she strides outonto the Music Room stage, she has the audience in the palm of her hand, with her own brand of folk, inspired as much by her Irish upbringing, as it is by her years travelling North America and the heartlands of her adopted home of Canada.
Her writing veers from the sweet tale of the life of an elderly man, who she habitually calls every Sunday to hear such tales, to her closing blues ramble of waking up with the Tullamore Blues, an affliction brought about by drinking and entire bottle of Tullamore Dew on a Saturday night. ‘Maybe its just me‘, she ponders. Almost certainly it is. Not one of your better Irish Whiskies, Tullamore. There was only time for a short set from Mythen, but the audience was undoubtedly left wanting more, and hoping for it soon.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Martin Waters