Dang, you always know you’re going to get a good show with SM at the Newhampton Arts in Wolverhampton. Home town, good contingent of family and friends and the ever faithful like to the Pompey Posse, IDS and me. All of which go to make up a super relaxed, friendly and sitting room like atmosphere. Tonight the sitting room was even more rammed than usual, packed to the gunwales, but we got our usual spot up front, so close you get a crick in your neck. IDS even got a little shout out from the Man in recognition of his ever present-ness at SM gigs at this venue.
We got treated to two supports – first off Jasmine Rodgers with some deft, heart-felt and lovely songs, her voice a little Tracy Chapman, a little Laura Marling, some nice banter and she successfully got everyone into the groove and made some new fans in the process. IDS of course was chuffed to see a soprano Ukulele in use – just wait til you hear him on his concert sized one !
Next up was a full band thang led by Dan Whitehouse and his accomplished band (with some great piano, double bass and box percussion) with a set of very assured songs from his EP’s and album. Ever a sucker for lap or pedal steel guitar, the addition of Chris Brown on a couple of songs was an extra delight.
Without much ado SM sauntered on stage and delivered his perennial combination of astonishing guitar, voice of a Wolvo angel, some typically Black Country humour and the usual gaps for tuning and chat backs to the sound desk. This is the combination that makes a SM gig always so warm and human, like your mates turning up and playing extraordinary music just for you.
The set list covered much from the ‘new’ album What the Night Delivers, now much toured following its ‘soft’ launch last September. But in there too were songs from Elsewhere and Passsing Stranger plus an unscheduled Elusive and a great improvised jam to cover the sorting out of a little sound problem.
The band was right on it, the excellent guitar of Greg Stoddart, the slinky percussion of Sam Martin (he of the ‘barely out of bed’ eyes) and some niiiice bass from a chap whose name I missed… sorry.
There is always so much to enjoy in a SM set, the older songs like City Headache and Passing Stranger still a genuine joy now with their embellishments over the years, and the newer given the added punch of live delivery. The thing that I love in his live set is the harder edge, a bit more rock in there, the added spice of a band interacting on the night. How great would it be for the next album to rock out a little, to throw the beautiful ballads into yet greater relief with some more straight ahead blues stuff that they do so well…. just thinking, that’s all!
But another roaringly good evening, yet again making the trip from deep in the Five Valleys all the way to the Black Country more than worth the effort. Top stuff Mr M, top stuff indeed.