Record Overplayed
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Tom McRae and Ali Whitton | Leeds Cockpit | 10/06/07

Dose Me Up

Gig Review by Dawn / Photos by Rich



Some tours go brilliantly right from the start. On other tours, however, you must wonder why everything seems to be going wrong.

Take Tom McRae, for example: Not only has his support act Steve Reynolds just broken his collarbone but, having scarcely shaken off a throat infection which has dogged him from the beginning of the tour, he's now managed to catch a cold.

Thankfully the first problem is swiftly solved by local lad Ali Whitton stepping ably in at the last possible minute to replace Steve as the opening act.


Used to having at least a couple of members of his band The BrokeRecordPlayers behind him, the late notice means that Ali plays this set solo and is, as a result, more than a little nervous. But you wouldn't guess it from his performance, as he expertly showcases tracks from his forthcoming album alongside a handful of other songs and, judging by the applause, wins himself a number of new fans in the process.

Ali stands out from the neverending crowd of aspiring singer-songwriters not just because of his distinctive voice, which can change in a split second from charmingly sweet to engagingly sinister, but because of the delightfully poetic and brutally honest lyrics which trip deliciously off his tongue.

While Baby Blue is softly beautiful, Empty Threats and Recurring Themes is the song The Waterboys never wrote and The Storm and A Little Hope contain words for which more established musicians would kill. Bring on the debut album.

And so to the main act – and it's true to say that it's never a good sign when, along with the obligatory setlists and towels, the tour manager also brings a mug of honey and lemon onto the stage. Sure enough, Tom takes to the stage and explains that he needs to test his voice to see what form this evening's show will take. It has to be said, however, that with the exception of the very highest notes of One Mississippi there are few vocal signs that he is ill – certainly his songs sound as striking and as powerful as ever.

Together with the outrageously talented Oli Kraus (cello) and Olli Cunningham (piano), onstage Tom turns his songs into even more spectacular showpieces than they are on record – the aqueous strings of Walking 2 Hawaii have never sounded more poignant - while old favourites such as Dose Me Up and Bloodless send shivers down spines when the singing is led not by Tom but by his admiring audience.

New album tracks such as Set the Story Straight and Got A Suitcase, Got Regrets already prove popular with the crowd, but it's the older tracks such as Streetlight which get a still more rapturous reception and, with its blissful blend of guitar, piano and cello, the as yet unrecorded The Only Thing I Know is simply divine.

Fellow musicians beware: If Mr McRae can put on a show this potent whilst dosed up on countless cold remedies, when he's back to full health he will once again be completely invincible.

With thanks as ever to Tom, Oli and Ali. Visit Tom's website at www.TomMcRae.com and Ali's MySpace at www.myspace.com/AliWhitton for more information.

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