As John Bramwell takes a short break from fronting I am Kloot, Getintothis’ Del Pike visits the Phil’s music room to check out his solo show and see if he’s still a big Liverpool fan.
A John Bramwell gig is markedly different to an I am Kloot gig, despite the fact that he only performs Kloot songs. They are much more intimate affairs where he lets his hair down a little, taking more time to chat and get to know the audience. His appearance at The Philharmonic Music Room tonight was no exception – a cosy evening that transformed a decidedly sedate room into a slightly less sedate room. John is never shy of showing himself to the crowd before a gig and could be seen flitting to and fro between the bar and the dressing room before introducing his good mate Dave Fidler to the stage. It appears John has produced Dave’s album, as Elbow’s Guy Garvey has produced Kloot albums in the past, much mutual back scratching in these Mancunian circles. John stands in the audience during some of Dave’s set, adding even more to his everyman image.
Dave Fidler is great, a genuinely warm presence with a fine head of hair. His mellow acoustic songs prepare us for the more acid examples of the genre to come. Opener I’m Not Here almost borrows its title from I’m Not There, Todd Haynes’ Dylan biopic (of sorts), and the references don’t stop there. Easy Gone Easy Come, a song about his son Dylan is delivered in a Dylan style, Dave even tells us so. This is a strong set of easy ballads and the beautiful Taking Over lends its slide guitar heavily from George Harrison’s Beatle track, For You Blue.
Dave Fidler re-appears later to add some balls to John Bramwell’s set, but not that any are needed as his performance is as in your face and raw as ever. The show takes a little while to get going as John adjusts himself, sets up his trademark foot rest, (usually a crate, tonight a barrel) and gets the measure of the crowd, discussing the size of his guitar rack with a woman in the audience. Just as his last appearance in Liverpool with I am Kloot at Liverpool’s O2 Academy earlier this year, he starts by winning us over with stories of his day in town, making no bones about the fact that he loves it here. On this occasion he has asked a Liverpool girl the way to the Phil, and is told “You can’t get to it from here”. John’s reply “What, not even if I go all the way back to my house and set off again?”
Opener, Bigger Wheels, with its “Healer, Dealer, skinflick traders” does the job of getting things moving. The sentiment of there always being “Bigger wheels and wider skies of blue… Than you to get through” is a valuable lesson in life from someone who certainly appears to have lived it. More talk ensues between songs and we are promised the chat will get less as the night wears on and he keeps to his word. Well selected favourites like the beer soaked To the Brink, the fragile cracked Cuckoo and the ever powerful A Strange Arrangement ebb and flow. Liverpool linked asides continue to punctuate as he spots the illuminated curtains at the far end of the bar, “Loving the aqua marine at the back – Early Bunnymen”. Clearly the slightly inebriated singer has his eye on the bar and calls for a drinks interval, but not before finishing the first half with the sublime At The Sea and 86 TVs.
After a frustrating interval queuing for a drink with just two bar staff, the Phil obviously not realising the appetite for beer of an average John Bramwell fan, we return to the Music Room. John enjoys a drink and likes his audience to join him. His tipsiness is never ugly though and adds to the humour in his song intros. After restarting with the classic Morning Rain we are treated to the inevitable Twist, one of John’s most startling and blunt songs that finds his life beaten lover with “Blood on her legs… I love you”. He proceeds to tell us of the day when the track was recorded, and how he drove home listening to it on his CD player. “I pulled up and said to myself…(long pause) That’s fucking brilliant”. It’s a story we’ve heard before but it’s still funny and he evidently believes it himself.
The set gets tighter as the night wears on and songs like I Still Do, From Your Favourite Sky and Some Better Day cannot fail to satisfy the already won-over gathering. We are also treated to a new song The Great Escape which goes down particularly well to those in the room who have heard it on previous nights.
John is aware that the crowd tonight are a little quieter than what he is used to in Liverpool and blames it on it being “a posh gig”. He is also aware of the fact that Cast are playing on the main stage and he thanks the audience for choosing him instead. A lone voice in the audience calls out “I couldn’t get tickets for Cast” which has John creased up once more. Proof, the song that’s so good they recorded it twice, closes the night and John retires with a guitar in one hand a pint pot in the other in the knowledge that this was indeed a grand night.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody.