April 30, 2018
Never Fade Sessions at The Social, London
“Let’s get creepy together”
That’s not the usual overture of a singer-songwriter with the voice of an angel, but that’s Clara Bond for you. She was recounting a conversation with a bandmate about Springsteen’s I’m On Fire while they’d been rehearsing for an Under The Apple Tree session: “I spoke the lyrics and I just don’t think he wants to do it anymore!”
Treating us to a preview of the cover by performing the song as a duo with guitarist Olly Harris, it showcased Bond’s dulcet tones and impeccable vocal control.
Aside from the cracking cover, Bond took the opportunity to say goodbye to songs from her Out of Towners EP now that she was recording new music. The title track of that EP had the memorable quality of a soundtrack song.
This was Bond’s second Never Fade session and she appreciated the hushed setting: “it feels like you’re actually listening.” The consensus later was that the sold-out crowd had been ‘very silent’ to fully appreciate Bond’s songs and stories.
The newer songs included Flashbacks – “the saddest song I’ve ever written” – and the instantly catchy tune Tambourine with the killer lyric “you look like a Kennedy but talk like Dean.”
The most memorable introduction was reserved for Does Your Girlfriend Know You’re Single? Six months after a guy went on a date with Bond, he was celebrating his one year anniversary with his girlfriend. Do the maths! “Yeah, he was an arsehole, but I got a good song out of him,” she chuckled. True, but let’s not give any credit to that muppet. Evidence suggests that Bond *always* writes good songs.
“We flew with Ryanair and that’s why we have no piano”
Performing in a packed room in front of a sea of expectant faces after Bond’s sterling performance would be no mean feat at the best of times, let alone without a preferred instrument. Performing as a guitar duo for the night, Saarloos’ easy going manner and harmonies were reminiscent of Smith and Brewer.
Trust In Me started with the cadence of a waltz then had the crowd singing along with the refrain. Ocean Floor has a sweet, polished sound that would have fit in effortlessly on a Dawson’s Creek soundtrack.
Their stage presence fit even better as they had the crowd (and each other) in stitches with their banter. The highlight was undoubtedly the moment they climbed into the crowd to perform Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’.
Saarloos will be back in London on June 9, supporting Gavin James at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire.
“I just shouted “more balls,” didn’t I? Damnit, that was supposed to be in my head!”
The moment Newton Faulkner started talking, it was clear that all bets were off. The banter was part musical insight, part biting wit, part stream of consciousness and always entertaining.
He deviated from the setlist early and often to choose songs that “felt right for the room.” For the “crowd participatory ones,” he really put the audience to work. As well as deploying some nifty Sister Act 2 choir control moves, it gave him a chance to address the critics: “lots of people think I’m Mr. Loopy Loopy man…I’m a multi-tasker.”
With the audience standing in for a loop pedal and a kick pedal as well as harmonising, he put the blame squarely where it belonged: “if it goes wrong, obviously it’s partly your fault!”
As well as the “big chunky ones” like The Way I’m Left Feeling, Hit The Ground and Pick Up Your Broken Heart, Faulkner made the most of the intimate space to share two achingly beautiful singles from 2007, I Need Something and Dream Catch Me. Along with the intricate guitar work, the reflective lyrics were striking then and now. “I toyed around with levels of honesty,” he admitted.
Faulkner ended up with an iconic mix of tender and bombastic with a memorable cover of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, impressively performing every part himself. Certainly not your granddad’s one man band! The crowd went wild, knowing they were privileged to have seen an exceptional artist in such a small space.
Big news is coming soon on Newton Faulkner’s website, apparently. Until then, you can play with the big pink ball at newtonfaulkner.com. When you’re done with that, check out the tour dates – Faulkner has a short UK tour coming up, including a show at The Borderline in London on June 5.
If you were particularly taken with Clara Bond’s set (and who wouldn’t be, because Clara Bond), there’s an Americana lilt to the next Never Fade Sessions. Ward Thomas will be performing at The Social on June 11. Details here.
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