Record Overplayed
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Duke Special | Gloucester Guildhall | 02/12/05

Extra Special

Gig review by Dawn / Photo (Stockton 2007) by Rich

It takes a brave man to perform a live cover of a song as revered as Love Will Tear Us Apart and an even braver one to perform it in a completely different style to the original. It takes a talented man, therefore, to truly do it justice – but then that's no real surprise given that it seems as though every song Peter Wilson (aka Duke Special) touches turns to gold.

Accompanied by regular bandmate Chip Bailey, the dreadlocked Irishman takes to the tiny Guildhall stage to the usual sound of a crackling record player and enthusiastic applause from the seated crowd. Kicking off with the rousing Brixton Leaves, his Belfast tones are as crisp and as pronounced as on record while, ever one for interesting instruments, Chip provides percussion on a wooden frog.

Chip swaps his amphibian for a more conventional drumkit to accompany the sweeping piano melody of Wake Up Scarlett - a song made stirringly beautiful by the way its wonderfully poetic lyrics trip easily off Peter’s tongue - before the pair showcase new EP track Portrait. As Chip brandishes his infamous Stumpf fiddle to supply a wonderfully clattering rhythm, Peter's East Belfast accent is once again at the forefront as "clumsy as a ragtime clown" lyrics perfectly connote the style of the song.

Gaining fans with every show and every support slot he plays, it's hard to see how Peter’s inimitable music could fail to attract interest; with every performance his songs evolve impressively, a fact never demonstrated better than tonight. As the suited and booted Chip stands masterfully to alternately thrash cymbals and a giant drum, the beautiful Closer to the Start has the honour of being one of the most emotive numbers of the night, partly thanks to it being sung in a higher key than on record. Equally, the looming echoes of I Let You Down are given a new twist as both Peter and Chip dramatically smash cymbals to the background strains of a record player before Chip picks up his more usual instruments of whisk, cheese grater and Stumpf fiddle.

As well as brilliantly playing album tracks such as recent single Freewheel (and never has there been so much feeling put into a single word as there is here in the three syllables of "fingertips"), Peter is eager to share his newer material – so much so that he produces a notebook full of his own scribbles to help him debut Ballad of a Broken Man and the instantly addictive I Don't Love You alongside EP tracks Low and John Lennon Love. It's testament to the immediate nature of Peter's work that the crowd are as enthralled by the unfamiliar songs as they are by the older favourites.

And as the evening draws to a close with enthusiastic applause, it's not only the songs which will stick in the memory of the audience. In a music world brimming with Topshop clones, the fantastic picture of Peter hunched over the red of his velvet covered piano, resplendent in green army jacket and staring out from beneath his dreadlocks with eyeliner-coated eyes makes for an image as unforgettable and intriguing as his songs.

With thanks to Peter, Clare and Don. Peter is on tour with David Ford throughout February - visit www.DukeSpecial.com for more details.

 

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