Sunday, June 30, 2013

Good Vibes at Ace Space - review by Bill Ainsworth of The PJP Band, Horse Around Home and Harry George Johns

The PJP Band, Horse Around Home and Harry George Johns at Ace Space, Newbury on Saturday, May 18

IT’S a funny old place, Newbury: lots of people love their music around here, but complain that there isn’t much of a live scene. They are quite prepared to go and see a band for free in a bar, where it can cost nearly £4 for a pint, but the idea of actually paying a mere £5 for a ticket puts them off, despite the fact that they’d be in for an evening dedicated to wholesome live music at a great little venue where it’s only £2 a pint. Build it, and they will shrug…

Right, mini rant over; to the folk who stayed away, it was your loss. The people who were there were treated to over two hours of top notch entertainment. First up was Harry George Johns, a lovely guy who, I’m told, plays regularly around the circuit with tonight’s headliners. Sat on a stool with just his acoustic guitar he held the audience in hushed awe with his yearning, achingly beautiful songs, which, by his own admission went from sad, to very sad, to the saddest.

Despite the song’s textures his between-tune banter was quite the opposite; humorous and humble; and as for his voice, well Jeff Buckley, James Morrison and Bon Ivor sprang to mind - yes he was that good. In an ideal world, guys like Johns would be household names and not these here-today, gone-tomorrow “talent” show winners, but, as we know, that isn’t where we’re at.

Mostly local guys Horse Around Home were up next, but not, we’re told, their usual line up. Regulars Julian Tulk (vocals and guitar) and Barry Pollock (bass) were more than ably accompanied by Patrick James Pearson (keyboards), more of whom later, and brothers Terry and Scott Essen (lead guitar and drums respectively). The latter two only had a few rehearsals in the last couple weeks to learn what turned out to be a very complex set of numbers. I like to draw comparisons when reviewing, but cannot bring anyone to mind with these guys I’m afraid. 

The lolloping build of set opener Hold did exactly what it said on the tin, I love a tune builds and builds to an orgasmic climax of controlled noise and this one had the crowd gripped. Other highlights for me were Dust And Dirt, Tulk’s solo effort Shoe Song and the very touching Smiling. Mr Tulk has had some rather good things happening in his personal life of late which he very lovingly touched upon when introducing Smiling; much to the joy of those involved, who I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time, and bringing cheers from those in the crowd who were in the know.

Two things all three acts tonight had in common was epic facial hair and/or cool dress sense - much check and denim etc was on show. Another was an absolutely brilliant vocal range, including in the case of the aforementioned Mr Pearson, who now took centre stage with The PJP Band, his keyboards looking like an early 1970s George Harrison (that’s a major compliment in case you weren’t sure).

By his own admittance, Pearson was feeling a little hoarse (no pun intended) this evening, but if he hadn’t mentioned this, I certainly wouldn’t have noticed. He and his cohorts treated us to a stunning nine-song set, with band members leaving the stage only to return when required, meaning the band ranged from a two to a four piece during the performance. 

Highlights for me were opener Disciplines, which brought Interpol to mind, and singles I Am A Racer and the splendid psyceadelic romp that is Vicious Luck, videos for both of which are available on You Tube. Other acts that came to mind at various points ranged from Lennon, The Flaming Lips and Arcade Fire to the bass heavy groove of The Chilis and the singalong, dancealong good time stomp of The Blues Brothers.

Finally on the PJP front, Patrick impressed me greatly when not only was he able to sing and play his main instrument with gusto, but not content with that, he increased his multi-tasking by playing tambourine with his foot. Good work, sir!
Bill Ainsworth

  • First published in the Newbury Weekly News on May 30, 2013

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