Lost Brothers, Seafoam Green, Niamh Rowe: Leaf, Liverpool

Lost Brothers

Lost Brothers

In a boisterous night for The Lost Brothers, in more ways than one, Getintothis’ Paul Fitzgerald was their to capture the mayhem and magic.

‘SHUT THE FUCK UP!” The big chap near the bar upstairs at Leaf wasn’t happy.

And he was far from being the only one who wasn’t, as the whole room strained to hear Seafoam Green’s set in support of The Lost Brothers’ return to Liverpool.

Big Guy stood for the great majority, distracted and disturbed by the far too vocal minority at the bar who seemed to revel in their insistence on carrying on regardless with their powdery Friday payday celebrations, uncaring of the feelings of those around them, and unconcerned of their effect. A friend nearby summed the mood up “Leaf, isn’t it”, with a resigned and defenceless shrug. He may be right.

Onstage, Dave O’Grady strode admirably through a set of delicious scratched and scorched blues soul songs, aching and passionate tales of loving and of being loved. His final song, My Oldest Friend, dedicated to his Mother, spoke to us all, and of us all.

A perfectly pretty and selfless depiction of the most important relationship many of us can ever have. The beauty and the sense of giving in O’Grady’s set, held in its plaintive soul cry, stood in direct contrast to the largely unchallenged rowdy conversation of the revelers in the corner. His pleas, late in his set, for closed mouths and open ears, worked for the briefest of moments before the levels returned to their previous level.

Earlier, The Sundowners‘ Niamh Rowe had benefited from a rapt reception as the room began to fill. Her set a variety of self penned numbers and covers, delivered to a growing crowd of appreciative listeners, and flavoured with the classic country folk stylings of Emmy Lou Harris, and the Mariachi strains and chord progressions of Arthur Lee’s Love as found particularly in her Lonesome River song.

Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland met while studying in Liverpool, and after playing in separate bands initially, became a duo. The Lost Brothers are firm favourites in their once adopted home town, so their arrival onstage at Leaf brought a worthy and appreciative reception from the crowd.

Accompanied by their old Deltasonic Records pal Bill Ryder-Jones, with a tour stretching out in front of them, and a new album, Halfway To A Healing, getting critical acclaim from just about anyone who hears it, its good to have them back on the familiar terrain of Bold Street.

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The album speaks of love and loss, the passage of time, regret and redemption and too many goodbyes. The Lost Brothers‘ possess a unique pairing in both voice and guitar, so perfectly complimentary, almost as one. It really is a rare bond, so wonderful to witness. From the opener of Echoes In The Wind, that much is clear.

Two beautifully simple guitar lines, given extra flavour and colour by Ryder-Jones’s guitar, give the tale a real taste of the West Ireland landscape and the Arizona desert where these songs were written and recorded. The gift here, the real attraction to The Lost Brothers writing is held in the instinctive way they work, and the strength of the innate bond they have. The songs, rich in melancholy and pathos, are subtle and simple and demand the close attention of the listener.

The deft country-folk guitar picking of Songs Of Fire, a beautiful fragile tale etched deep with the pain of regret and solitude, saw those harmonies brought even closer, somehow warmer, closer and perfectly pitched. It was a highlight of the set, as much as it is of this wonderful album.

Following a particularly special cover of the Jimmy Reed blues classic Baby What Do You Want Me To Do, Mark McCausland’s patiece abandoned him and he pleaded for the mouthy contingent to take their noise downstairs. He was about as pleasant as he could be. And just about as pissed off. All through the set, despite several challenges from various members of the crowd, they’d grown louder.

Halfway through the set, with a group of them queuing in twos for a single toilet cubicle, one told us, ‘it’s too fuckin mellow in there’, when if anything in fact, it clearly wasn’t mellow enough. They didn’t get the Coral songs they’d hoped for, maybe. It would be understandable to believe that, given the shout they gave Bill Ryder-Jones at the end of the show.

The end of the show came with  a dark, stirring and looming version of Under The Turquoise Sky from 2008’s Trails Of The Lonely Pts 1 & 3. The crowd applauded loudly as the musicians left the stage, as appreciative of their music as they were of the way they’d handled a particularly difficult evening, and willing them on to a more respectful audience response at their next gig.

Oisin Leech, outside the little Grapes an hour or two later, brushed it all off with a slightly disappointed sounding “Liverpool on a Friday, mate“. He might be right, it could just be put down to that.

Nobody wants to prevent people having a good time, but the frustration many feel is borne of the fact that even when asked by the artistes, the chattering perpetrators chatter onward. Obviously, nobody’s about to complain about noise at a Cabbage gig, but at show’s like this, it is often a serious issue.

Also, when it’s an issue, it’s a clear issue to everyone, including the venue. Maybe venues could take a more active role in limiting the disturbance? The Jazz Cafe in Camden simply used to have STFU painted in large letters at the back of the stage. Other suggestions in a lengthy, late night conversation in the Knight Street watering hole included venues placing a member of door staff at the bar during performances, or printing messages on the cups.

Signage was mentioned, as was the comedy club model of closing the bar during performances, to place maximum attention on the act. It’s a conversation we need to have, that much is clear. Unlike the conversations which went so far to ruin the gigging experience for so many at The Lost Brothers Leaf gig, a truly wonderful gig marred by a less than wonderful minority.

Photos by Getintothis’ Warren Millar