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
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
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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