Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham
There are 2 versions of Roddy Woomble, the furrow-browed frontman of REM-alikes, Idlewild, spiky and agitated confusion, and the furrow-browed folkie, reeking of peat, hebridean laments to the fore. I have seen each and possibly err more towards the latter. Tonight we had the lesser of both worlds, with the tilt more toward Idlewild, albeit in an acoustic setting. With erstwhile Hazey Jane Andrew Mitchell, also present for Idlewild’s last outing, on keyboard and occasional hollow-body guitar, Woomble stuck with an acoustic guitar, at least to begin, and his voice. And a fine voice it is, resonating richly like a wood-aged Ledaig, a malt from his island home of Mull. Nominally a belated tour in support of The Deluder, his 4th solo record, which came out out last year, he had been specifically invited to appear here to help launch the publicity campaign for this years Moseley Folk Festival (http://www.moseleyfolk.co.uk ), which looks a corker, as ever stretching the meaning of folk to it’s limit. Tonights performance saw him yearning for the stadia more than the bothies, littered with Idlewild songs, and the Idlewild like songs of that recent album. Indeed, he even commented on that paradox, ditching the guitar a few songs in, pacing the stage like the introspective frontman he is and promising a band next time. I was missing the fiddle. So there were only a couple of songs from 2006’s exemplary My Secret is My Silence, including the title, and one from it’s follow-up, the strength of the songs carrying the sparse arrangements, and perhaps four from The Deluder, notably the ‘single’, Like Caruso. Of the other fare, he tried to stick to older and less expected pickings from his band catalogue, Mitchell switching occasionally from densely echoed and distorted piano, to equivalently echoed fingerpicking. Little Discourage and American English worked particularly well within this format, especially when the two sang different refrains at the same time, another reminder of the obvious influence of Athens’ finest. Deciding against a shuffle through the audience and back again, Woomble announced the encores would be a continuum, following directly after the otherwise last song, and that is how it ended, with a further trio of Idlewild anthems. The crowd wanted more but the singer had a bag of CDs to sell, so that was that.
60 or 70 souls braved the remnants of the residual beast from the east, seeming solidly partisan, mouthing the words of both Woomble personae, which was impressive, even if I felt their sympathies were maybe allied more to the rock band than the folk group. Most of the men were bearded and a perhaps 3:2 ratio with female fans. Mostly younger than I, 40s at a guess.
It made me think..
There cannot be many musicians with such an apparent counterpoint between their styles. OK, much is arrangement, the wordy miserabilia shared between the two. I see he is playing some summer gigs with the occasional trio of he, John McCusker and Kris Drever Maybe I should have waited for that. No, that’s unfair. It was a fine show, just not what I was expecting. Andrew Mitchell seems a fella worth looking into: I will investigate more deeply the Hazey Janes,which includes also two of the children of Dundee legend, the late Michael Marra. He has also produced a work in tribute to his Ukrainian grandfather, Soloky, under then name Andrew Wasylyk, ordered today unheard, based on his performance here.