Blue Rose Code – The Cluny 2 (Newcastle, UK – May 16, 2014)
I’ve a friend who has paid as lot and even travelled internationally to see Pearl Jam over the years, even though he hasn’t particularly loved any recent albums. I asked why and he always says that they were just a great live band and they always play and sound great. He and I agree that playing live is largely about the performance, and everything else (songs, sound, audience) is a bonus. Blue Rose Code has it all, and then some.
Firstly, the performance. This is the fourth time I have seen Blue Rose Code in the past year, but the first time with more than singer-songwriter, guitarist, and only permanent band member, Ross Wilson performing. At each of those shows, Ross played with energy, had great interaction with the crowd, and arranged the songs and performed them with such verve that I never thought about the recorded versions.
This time Ross was joined by Samantha Whates on backing vocals and flute, John Parker on double bass, and MG Boulter on pedal steel, dobro and backing vocals. MG opened the show with his deft, nylon-stringed finger picking. I enjoyed his set, especially ‘Blackbird’ and an unreleased song that I’m going to call ‘Last Song I Ever Sing’. I bought ‘Whispering Pines’ and ‘The Water of the Wave’ and both are magnificent and well worth a listen.
I’ve never seen any group have this much fun and display such natural chemistry with one another. There was a smile on everyone’s face for almost the entire set, and this was felt by everyone in the audience.
Now, the music. I love everything I’ve heard by Blue Rose Code, there is literally not a single track that I don’t like. The albums and EPs have such variety combining elements of folk, indie, rock, and jazz that defy genrefication – I’ve never heard anything like it before. These songs performed on this night, by these people, are different to the recorded versions, but have been beautifully arranged to suit those on stage.
Samantha’s vocals were a wonderful addition to Ross’ and give a different feel to the songs. MG’s pedal steel and dobro added country, Americana, blues and a wonderful ambience to the songs – especially ‘The Light of You ‘ and ‘Edina’. John’s double bass, and percussion on the body of his bass during ‘True Ways of Knowing’, was jazzy and expressive (is there a greater sounding instrument?). See a video of ‘True Ways of Knowing’ from the show in Glasgow from Saturday, 17 May.
The band played songs from all their releases, which I really appreciated, as a lot of live shows tend to focus on the new album. I genuinely liked every song they played but especially loved ‘Acquainted With The Night’/’Silent Drums’, ‘The Light of You’, ‘True Ways of Knowing’, ‘Edina’, ‘Ghosts of Leith’, ‘The Last Days of May’ and ‘Oh North’. (I could’ve written the entire setlist here to be honest.)
The audience was quiet and listened to the songs (just the way I like it). The sound was excellent, as is the norm in The Cluny 2 when Ross Lewis operates the soundboard.
Gig, performance, band, and album of the year.
“All our endless numbered days in a melody”