Howie Payne, Lee Southall and Mel Bowen: Buyers Club, Liverpool

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Howie Payne, Photo credit: Lucy McLachlan

Howie Payne

Howie Payne heads up an evening of sheer Liverpool genius at The Buyers club and Getintothis’ Del Pike felt lucky to be there.

When a Liverpool legend like Howie Payne comes to town, you’re guaranteed a warm audience and even in the early moments of this evening’s stellar line up at The Buyers Club you can sense a lot of love in the room.

Family members, old friends and fans alike gather with reverence, including Howie’s sister Candie, an incredible singer in her own right. His choice of support tonight is perfect too.

Mel Bowen starts the evening off with an intriguing take on scouse folk, more reminiscent of John Head than Mick, weaving in intricate guitar patterns that wouldn’t feel out of place on the Head brothers’ Strands album or even going back to the Paleys. Backed by jazzy keyboards that slip into Mick Talbot’s Style Council days and give a summery feel to warm this October night, it’s an interesting mix for sure.

Standout tracks, Square in the Circle and It’s not easy give Mel an opportunity to exercise his mellow yet strong vocals, with some be-boppy noodling in the latter.

When The Coral’s Lee Southall takes the stage there is a hallowed hush. Much like Bill Ryder-Jones solo work, Lee rejects the psychedelic indie rock that has paved his way and chooses a quieter approach.

Whilse the tempo of the songs refuses to vary too much, the set is controlled, Lee remains seated throughout and the audience at times seem almost hypnotised as his fingers dance across the strings. With no disrespect to his voice, perhaps Lee’s high point tonight is a mind-bending instrumental that draws attention to his incredible dexterity.

His finger-picking style is reminiscent of Donovan, particularly from the Rick Rubin produced Sutras, and becomes at times almost meditative.

Choosing a support artist with a similar Liverpool heritage is always going to be a good idea, and Lee Southall received an almost equal amount of praise as Howie tonight and deservedly so.

When Howie Payne gets up, he is joined by a three-piece band, providing a contrast to his recent solo shows. They’re good too, emulating the sound of The Stands when Howie revisits that catalogue.

He looks genuinely glad to be here, and kicks off with guaranteed crowd pleasers, When this river rolls over you and Outside your Door, both from The Stands’ classic first album, All Years Leaving.

When Howie straps on his harmonica, Dylan comparisons are inevitable, although he doesn’t force the point. It’s a sound that creates wonderful imagery though of past autumns and hazy summers.

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Come Down Easy from his solo album, Bright Light Ballads fits that Dylan groove well and tonight’s outing is perfect. Howie has some absolute classics under his belt and like Mick Head, he’s still under-valued on a wider scale. Come Down Easy is one of those songs that should be heard by the many.

The Brightest Star and Holding on are from Howie’s new album, Mountain, released later this month, and both are crisp country-tinged gems. If the rest of the album sounds like this then Christmas is coming early this year.

Always Is The Same/Shine On takes Howie back to the All Years Leaving album once more. This is clearly a high point, as it remains an album high point too, then we’re back to the new stuff with the elegant Evangeline and the instantly loveable Hold Steady the Wire.

There is certainly progression with the new tracks, and it’s in a cleaner sound. Maybe it’s just because they are new to us, but there is definitely a sense that the artist has traveled since his last outing and picked up some influences on the way.

Here She Comes Again, should be as worshipped as The La’s There She Goes, it’s a perfect pop song with an unmistakeable Liverpool sound. If there was ever a case for Howie Payne rising up and being heard then this is it.

New single Some Believer, Sweet Dreamer is similarly infectious, and draws a direct line between the first Stands album and Mountain.

It’s a shame that The Stands’ second album, HorseFabulous was overlooked tonight. While it lacks the emotional punch of the debut it has some needle-sharp pop classics, Just enough Love would have gone down a storm tonight.

Howie finishes on the fifth visit tonight from that first album with the title song, All Years Leaving. Do we feel a reissue looming? Yes we do.

It’s a great song to end on and reminds us all why we love him so much. There was enough of the new album on show tonight to whet our appetites and plenty of old stuff to satisfy all, A great gig by one of Liverpool’s best. Cheers Howie, boss that.

Images by Getintothis’ Lucy McLachlan

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