A much-anticipated show at this fine all-purpose venue, opening tonight with the passionate performance and emotionally powerful ballads of Dan Owen. First track ‘Icarus’ immediately pulled the audience in and with his warm anecdotes and a barnstorming blues rendition of ‘Little Red Rooster’ he set the positive tone for the evening.
After many years of performing and a long career break, County Affair are a four-piece having a second life promoting an Abbey Road recorded album of a new batch of Americana songs. The tracks deal with eternal country music themes, joined with a likeable background of accordion, keys, guitar and percussion.
Ward Thomas started with the low-key duet ‘Dear Me’ and as soon as they segued into the descending vocal harmonies in the chorus of ‘No Fooling Me’ and the bitter-sweetness of ‘Cartwheels’ we knew that the emotional and musical magic was all in place. With varying amounts of input from their empathetic band this was a fantastic set, balanced between the pop oriented songs of 2019’s ‘Restless Minds’ album and the big country ballads such as ‘Guilty Flowers’ and the stomping ‘I Believe In You’ as well as the heart-tearing ‘Someday’ and ‘One More Goodbye’. With final encore ‘Safe’ performed as just a duo the show had gone full circle as the harmonies gently floated in the air.
As part of a tour to promote their excellent third album, London quartet Teleman raised the pulses of their many devoted fans in Norwich (and those who had travelled from Cambridge…).
Support act C.A.R. (the performing name of Chloé Raunet) plays electronic soundscapes where a pulsing bass line underpins her hypnotic vocals and synthesiser lines. Singing in French for ‘La petite fille du 3ème’ added a haunting sixties texture to the sound. An impressive set, well appreciated by the audience.
As the stage was set up to the accompaniment of disturbing mixes of white noise and film soundtracks (2001, The Blob(!) et al) and the LED backdrop glowed with random lightning flashes we were wondering how the current Teleman live sound would reflect the new recordings. Straight in with one of my favourites ‘Strange Combinations’, inexplicably not on any album, but showcasing many of the elements that make the band so compulsive.
New song ‘Cactus’ also does this, with a deep synth riff that drives the song to its loud conclusion, given extra potency when the bass guitar thunders in to add an extra layer.
‘Fun Destruction’ has some great retro synthesiser settings too, while the surreal narrative of title track ‘Family Of Aliens’ is strangely evocative. ‘Submarine Life’ features a vocoder vocal with the funkiest bassline of the evening and the foreboding gothic mood of ‘Fall In Time’ unravels and unnerves like a Hammer Horror. ‘Song For A Seagull’ has a lovely melody and lyric and ‘Twisted Heart’ is a good poppy blast with a hookline chorus that sticks in the mind. To finish the main set fan favourite the mighty ‘Düsseldorf’ pushes all before it. For the encore we had relative oldies ‘Christina’ and modern-life list song ‘Not In Control’ and then it was all over, the time had flown by.
This was the 5th time I had seen the band since 2014; in each show the sound has evolved subtly in many directions and it is always fascinating to watch how the musical contributions of the four players gel so well together. They now have so many strong tracks that some favourites get left out of the set but tonight showed that Teleman are on fantastic form.