Wednesday, 3 October 2018

GIG REVIEW: Blair Dunlop - Robin 2, Bilston. Tuesday 2nd October 2018

The shortening of the days and dipping of the temperature may see the prevalence of the dreaded lurgy, but Blair Dunlop was not going to let any affliction knock him off course. There is a new album on the table up for promotion and we all know that music is the best medicine. To be fair, the momentum of this gig at the Robin 2 in Bilston played its part and from an early vocal stuttering, it soon turned into business as usual. This is Blair Dunlop reminding folks what an accomplished artist he is, fully adept on the writing, musicianship and performing front.

For the early throes of the tour supporting the recently released NOTES FROM AN ISLAND, Blair has assembled a trio format in harnessing the talents of long time drummer Fred Claridge and newly enlisted acquaintance Jack Carty on bass. The latter, an experienced singer-songwriter in his own right, opened the evening with a support set packed full of self-penned songs spanning the European and Oceanic continents, thus representing the British home and the Down Under upbringing of this exiled Aussie.

Peaking with songs such as ‘Hospital Hill’ and ‘Stargazer’, Jack paved the way for Blair to take centre-stage complete with a homely lampshade making the vacuous Robin feel a little more intimate. Before too long, the impish character came to the fore making Blair a highly personable performer and one to warm the hearts of those in his midst.

His style blends the storytelling of folk with a pop tinge, while never straying too far from the late sixties-early seventies rock templates of either side of the pond. He tended to major on electric guitar for most of the evening, swaying between a few extrovert rock riffs and more subtle twangy strumming. Impeccable percussion from Fred Claridge kept appropriate time ranging from the Americana leaning upbeat ‘45s (C.'14)’ (which acted as the foot tapping pre-encore closer) and the impressive ‘Nothing Good’ lifted off the new record. Blissful three part harmonies adorned the latter and eyes closed could easily have imagined a Californian super group on stage.

On a stateside theme, there was an air of familiarity about the cover of ‘Dancing in the Dark’, which Blair did try to put on a different spin. This was one of a handful of tracks delivered solo on acoustic guitar, including the evening finale of ‘No Go Zones’, an interesting and relevant song to sing when returning to the West Midlands. The subject of the track is the infamous and ill-advised Fox News story slamming our beloved second city as being a rather dangerous place to live!

To stir up a slice of audience interaction of the singing kind, Blair had the ideal song in ‘Green Liquor’, one dark in sentiment contrasting with a highly catchy harmonious humming end finale, leaving no excuse not to join in. A track not even needing an invitation to participate in is the brand new single ‘Sweet on You’. This could quite conceivably be Blair’s best song to date, an enhanced accomplishment with now four full- length albums in the bank. Other songs to make their mark on the night were a cover Gabrielle Aspin’s ‘Please Don’t Say You Love Me’, and a song representing Blair at his folk best in ‘Up on the Cragside’.

An hour and half after hitting the stage, Blair Dunlop had accomplished the feat of putting on yet another entertaining and highly enjoyable show. The Robin 2 is not an easy place for a singer-songwriter heavy on original material to ply their trade on a midweek night. Yet those who, either took a punt or are seasoned fans had their investment amply rewarded. Artists like Blair Dunlop keep the live music scene fresh, vibrant and brimming with meaningful music. Another first class show added to the record.

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