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FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: BACK AT THE BEDFORD

Last week found me back at The Bedford, Balham to curate an evening of eclectic and I hope complementary music, this time featuring the contrasting talents of Andrew Maxwell Morris, Hallworth and Paper Anthem. The beauty of this venue is not confined to its inviting circular shape and Elizabethan theatre ambiance, nor to its expertly operated sound system. The performers watch each other’s sets rather than retreat to the bar and their supporters are largely there for the whole show not just to watch their favourites. Audiences come to listen rather than chat and are open to appreciating songs they have never heard before as much as those they can mouth the words to. Just how it should be.  

 

All photos from The Bedford by Sigita Safronova

First up was Paper Anthem led by Joseph Hitchcock late of Fayetteville, Arkansas who moved here to fulfil an ambition to put a band together in the land from where he has drawn much of his musical inspiration. The band line up is international - US, Brazil, Romania and home grown – and individually agile enough to do justice to Joseph’s songwriting complexities, challenging rhythms, rises and falls. Collectively Paper Anthem is emerging as an indie force to be reckoned with, especially as there are always melodic hooks or phrases in the songs to latch on to when first encountered and much more to be uncovered on further listens; a case in point being the latest single “Coelacanth” (2 points if you know what that is or can pronounce it).



Many of Joseph’s songs analyse his urge for romance and the pitfalls that seem to ensue, both in a quirky and self-deprecating way. The piano-led “When You Know (You Know)” stands out as an unrequited anthem while “Malus” is a sugar rush of frantic feelings. It is fitting that the band closed the set with the urgent fast tempo of “Gameplan”, a stream of consciousness guide to what invariably goes wrong. Despite the lucklessness in love, plenty went right with this opening performance.

Next, providing light and shade to the comparative intensity of Paper Anthem’s set, was London-based singer-songwriter Hannah Lloyd aka Hallworth, a label she borrowed from her singer grandmother’s maiden name. Being a local, she had the advantage of being able to walk to the gig. Hallworth competes on a particularly crowded platform, alongside contemporaries who habitually channel their disappointments, anxieties and troubles into their music, honestly and openly. Tonight, she shared songs from her recent debut EP, The Songs That Ache, the title of which tells much in itself, while trying out some new material. She began with the short bittersweet “Places You Are”, referencing a break-up yet with the focus on the other party, hoping that they might realise what they had lost. It was followed by what is almost a companion song: the diary-like “I Do Love Her, So”; one where you let go and reconnect with yourself.



Her work is hallmarked (ouch) with strong melody lines and characterised by soft yet assured vocals. Accompanying herself initially on piano and then switching to acoustic guitar, she moves from classic downbeat territory to an uptempo pop vibe with comparative ease and an ability to scale the emotive peaks in her repertoire. The new material she aired was inspired by a songwriting stint in Nashville, spending too much money on iced coffee there and in the final song, “Stateside”, charting a failed romance after ‘following a boy to America.’ Given how warmly Hallworth was received this evening, his loss and our gain I think.

And so to tonight’s headliner Andrew Maxwell Morris accompanied by his long term band mates, Matt on piano and Simon on electric guitar. Over the past 15 years and more, I have probably seen Andrew play live more times than I’ve ordered Singapore Noodles [That’s a lot? – Ed] while he has managed to play every Glastonbury Festival since 2008. I have often written that this passionate and gifted singer-songwriter would easily work on one of the festival’s bigger stages and that thought has never diminished. Tonight, though I felt there was an extra dimension to his performance. The song choice ran the gamut from his first EP (Upside Down – 2007) to his third and latest self-titled album (2022) but everything was allowed a little more space to breathe with small changes here and there adding lift and enriching character.



You can evidence this by comparing the fine studio sound of “Chasing Time” above to the live version by watching the Bedford live version on the link below with its a capella 3-part harmonies near the end; shades of The Eagles as Andrew added tongue-in-cheek after the song ended. The eight-song set had a classic feel to it with standout melodies, emotive vocals, sympathetic accompaniments and a touch of grandeur. Acknowledging his wife who was in tonight’s audience, he conjured a solo reprise of “Wedding Song”, a song he wrote for and performed at their wedding day while “Well Tread Roads”, a perfectly weighted homage to the life of a musician, never sounded truer.

 

You can watch the entire show on The Bedford’s YouTube channel. The audio is muted while no one is on stage to prevent broadcasting of copyrighted background music so set times start at around 6:20 (Paper Anthem), soon after 1:00:20 (Hallworth) and 1:40:25 (Andrew Maxwell Morris). Fans of scarcely audible introductions, largely made in the dark, may also move the slider to a minute or so before those times.



NEXT WEEK

My apologies to Madison Leigh, Retropxssy and others who I had lined up for inclusion in today’s column. As usual once I get stuck into live reviews, I somewhat blew the customary word count. Next week I promise!

 

FIFTY3 FRIDAYS SPOTIFY PLAYLIST APRIL 2024

Finally… on the first Friday of each month, I publish a Playlist on Spotify which includes all the songs featured in this column over the previous month – in order, for the tidiest of minds. Our Fifty3 Fridays Spotify Playlist April 2024 includes the 19 songs from the month’s Fifty3 Fridays with two substitutions for songs n/a on Spotify: “One Step Away” by The Happy Somethings + Slovenly Boy for the Happys’ cover of “Second Time Around” and “Force” by JayaHadADream for “Butthurt Men”. It opens with the explosive indie rock of “Self Destruct” by The Trusted, concluding with the siren allure of Silk Cinema’s “Too Many Times”.

 

Please follow me on Spotify at TonyHardy53 to access all these monthly playlists dating back to April 2021 when Fifty3Fridays came into being.



 

Comments


FIFTY3 champions

outstanding new music

through Fifty3 Fridays and

occasional features 

 

Music is a great passion of mine. In my teenage years I was an avid record collector and concert goer. Stints as a booking agent, running folk clubs, promoting gigs and even a crack at artiste management followed. While it never became my main occupation, music was always on my personal radar.

 

In the past 15 years I have written for leading US music website  Consequence and breakthrough  site, BestNewBands. I am a judge for Glastonbury Festival's Emerging Talent Competition and have reviewed the festival for both sites. I am now pleased to curate my very own music site.

 

Nothing gives me greater pleasure than unearthing great, original new music and championing independent musicians. You’ll find many of them on this site alongside the occasional legend of times past and I hope they will bring  you as much joy as they give me.

Tony Hardy

UPCOMING GIGS 

 

Selected dates in the London area:

Thu 23 May: Jon Allen, The Bedford, Balham

Fri 24 May: Grace Cummings, The Lexington, London N1

Thu 30 May: Sweet Billy Pilgrim, Greenleaf  Church, London E17

Fri 7 Jun: Goat Girl, Disco Room - Pryzm, Kingston

Sat 8 Jun: Bat For Lashes, St John's Church, Kingston

banquetrecords.com: See the Events page for all live shows in Kingston

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