Sunday, 19 October 2014

Danny and the Champions of the World - O2 Academy 3, Birmingham, Saturday 18th October 2014

Danny Wilson proudly proclaims his band as ‘champions of the world’, while others hail them as the best live act on the UK circuit. The merits of both claims have great substance and plenty of evidence is on display each time they take to the stage. The belief Danny has in his band is undeniable and he fully understands the value of combination and co-operation. Closely observing, then immersing yourself into the work of this genre defying band is a riveting experience, although the true pleasure is leaving the scrutiny to one side and riding the euphoric wave of good time vibes radiating from the band in full flow.

This tour by Danny and the Champions of the World encompasses the past, the present and the future. While technically the tour is supporting the new record, LIVE CHAMPS, this particular release is celebrating the past or to be more accurate, one magical night at the Jazz Café. So the set list for this Birmingham gig contained many old favourites and a substantial collection from last year’s much loved studio release STAY TRUE. The country soul path that Danny led the band down on this record was a refreshing sound and similar soulful vibes adorned the two tracks that he previewed for the next record. These two were perhaps a little more up tempo, possibly proving comparable to the sound of US acclaimed band St. Paul and the Broken Bones. The un-naming of these songs preserves a touch of mystique about the new record with Danny himself still unsure of the ultimate direction, although one certainty is that they’ll make you dance.

Fresh from their successful worldwide support slot opening for Tori Amos, south coast based alt-folk duo Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou have re-united with Danny to show those arriving early at the gig what an exceptional duo they are. It was a pity that these pair of ex-champs had a prior commitment that prevented them joining in the fun at the end but an impromptu sentimental moment saw Danny invited on stage to sing them a song to commemorate their wedding anniversary. The two guitar-single mic format suits their unique vocals and the performance harked back to an excellent set they played at the 2013 Maverick Festival. Spinning visions of the 60s New York folk revival sound, Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou deliver their songs with fine exquisiteness and aligned harmony, tantalising you to want a little bit more than their thirty minute opening set.

The country soul sound that has defined the current momentum of the champs centres round the pedal steel of Henry Senior Jr and Free Jazz Geoff’s luxurious sax contributions. Sparkling lead guitar segments by Paul Lush ladles each song with finesse while the rhythmic engine room of bassist Chris Clarke and drummer Steve Brookes keeps the tight sound intact. Danny George Wilson, to give him his full and solo status name, skilfully orchestrates a live performance which often sees three or four minute studio tracks turned into ten minute concert extravaganzas, liberally sprinkled with individual band member interludes.

An enthusiastic, committed and appreciative Saturday night Birmingham turnout bought into Danny’s mutual ethos from early in the gig, which eventually spawned into a set exceeding two hours. In a venue that hosts a decent sound system within a soulless corporate shell, few would leave without an affirmative acknowledgement that Danny and the Champions of the World perfectly execute the ultimate intimate interactive show. Any issues surrounding the Second City’s viable reception of Americana music are best debated elsewhere and true live music will always survive the situation.

For a more comprehensive documentation of the set list, it is suggested that you invest in LIVE CHAMPS but needless to say ‘(Never Stop Building) That Old Space Rocket’ is the ideal show opener, ‘Henry the Van’ oozes with alternative sentimentality and ‘These Days’ removes the static element from every member of the audience. Those with an ear for good taste understand and fully appreciate what Danny and the Champions of the World stand for. Intelligent acclaim is aplenty for Danny Wilson and commercial justice, with a prevailing wind, is within his grasp. 

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