Robert Vincent (with Robbie Taylor), Supported by Emily Lockett
St Lawrence’s Church, Biddulph, Staffordshire.
‘Biddulph Up In Arms’
9th October 2020
Rob Vincent; “I can’t remember how many gigs I’ve done in my life, but this feels like I’ve never done it before.”
This gig – like many others – was supposed to happen back in March – and with a full band; but we all know what happened to things like that.
Credit to Biddulph Up In Arms promoter Craig Pickering for having the tenacity to find a way to make this gig happen.
The venue – a church with Saxon origins, burnt down by the Vikings and with mysterious Templar grave slabs outside, is a wonderful space, both visually and acoustically – keeping the flame of live music burning.
Normal capacity is around 180 but that was down to exactly 60, following a day spent arranging chairs with Tetris like precision to ensure sight lines and appropriate distancing, movement routes, bar location for table service, sourcing temperature checking equipment etc. etc.
The gig was declared sold out on its re-scheduling which meant that early ticket purchasers were going to be rewarded with some very rare and high quality live entertainment.
Local support act Emily Lockett has played a couple of support slots for Biddulph Up In Arms and her growth as a songwriter, musician and performer is clear – she’s only in her first year at university and has been playing live since her mid-teens.
Her guitar playing is confident and expressive – lyrically she’s in the Maisie Peters/Taylor Swift camp of angsty relationship experiences’ but she’s growing into her own style and voice too, with songs like “I Wanna Go Out” about the acknowledged teenage frustration of lockdown.
She’s recorded recently with tonight’s soundman, Matt Bishop (Of Honey Ryder) and has more music ‘nearly ready to release.’
While her main target audience might eventually be a teenage crowd, but tonight’s significantly older audience warmly received her self-effacing humour and strong performance.
One to watch.
Just before the gig,Robert Vincent had posted on social media that he’d forgotten that ‘pre-gig adrenaline rush’ – and that rush eventually flowed fully in a one and three quarter hour set of absolute delight.
Superbly aided and abetted by multi-instrumentalist Robbie Taylor the time just flew by.
Opener “So In Love” created a cathartic release for all present, so strong that the waves could probably felt back in Liverpool.
Newer songs that haven’t had the opportunity to be presented live like “In This Town You’re Owned” took on a new life – one of the advantages of the lockdown is the delayed gratification of being able to hear these songs played and sung live; after being familiar with the recorded versions for perhaps a while longer than normal.
Early in the set, “Burns (Like Cotton in the Fields)” set the emotional standard very high indeed; self-effacingly introduced as a “sad country song” there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
The quality and performance didn’t drop through songs like “Blue,” “Life in Easy Steps” and I’m Still Here,” before a powerfully understated and perfectly symbolic cover – in the light of the evening’s event – of “Come Together” for John Lennon’s 80th birthday.
A selection from the new album followed with “Conundrum” sounding spectacular – and in its duo delivery very much having the recognisable but ineffable qualities of classic music from Merseyside.
The Biddulph crowd is a discerning listening crowd and the millisecond of reverential awed silence that was being observed, leading in and out of each song spoke volumes about the genuine reverence that Rob’s performance created.
Before “The Bomb” Vincent stated that “I can’t remember how many gigs I’ve done in my life, but this feels like I’ve never done it before” – from my side of stage viewpoint, that was a mixture of the freshness of a return to playing, the communion with a crowd/people and the revelation of music that’s been hidden away behind a digital fourth wall.
“Demons” ended the set and there was time for an encore of “I’ll Make the Most of My Sins,” and by this stage, the sense of passionate warmth in the room was palpable.
In trying to make some overall critical sense of this, I found that I couldn’t separate the music from the event.
Tonight was exactly what live music is all about – a shared communal emotional interaction; needing all the ingredients being amplified in abundance by their unfortunate recent absence.
I’m not a religious man by any stretch, but Robert Vincent & Co ‘took us to Church’ in more ways than one tonight; long may that continue.
Review by Nick Barber
Photos – https://flic.kr/s/aHsmRiJvrF