Chastity Brown & Tom Blackwell
Jumpin Hot Club
The Cluny II
Thursday 25th May 2023
First up was Liverpudlian singer-songwriter Tom Blackwell, looking very dapper in a suit and pristine white shirt. He opened with the slow and simmering I Can’t Help It, which seamlessly went into Paradise Blues without missing a note.
With only 40 minutes to showcase his back catalogue and imminent new release; Tom was like a magician the way he changed harmonicas and re-set his acoustic guitar between songs; generally with some self-depreciating quips to entertain the appreciative crowd.
Just over half way through he played the title track, Regency Cafe from the new album; and while I have my own review copy at home; I only realised how much he reminds me of the solo work from Ray Davies in the way he arranges and sings his songs; the subject matter is similar too.
The other two new songs found him dipping his toes into the Americana waters with Tom Trouble and what he introduced as his ‘daft song’ Kill Me With Kindness which was filled with wheezy harmonica bursts ala Neil and Bob which merited two stars in my notes.
For a virtual unknown this far East I was pleased to hear Tom receive a request for The King of Doubt, from the back of the room, which was actually one of the highlights of a razor-sharp set.
Tom has recently re-located to the NE, so hopefully I will get to see him a lot more in the near future.
I’ve seen Chastity Brown a few times over the years so was surprised to see a drum kit as the back of the stage; which was filled by an intricate lady drummer called Tara who wonderfully Chastity’s ‘Jazzy set’.
You will have to forgive me as we go forward, because not only did I become immersed in the music; occasionally forgetting to scribble notes; Chastity didn’t introduce any songs; bar one …. and her set list, which I photographed seems to be written in some secret code!
Her opening song, Cult Classically set the tone for the Jazzy vibe that prevailed all evening; intricately soft drums accompanying some clever piano or guitar; but with Ms Brown’s stunning vocals very much front and centre.
This was followed by Boston from the latest album; and the sparse guitar and drums with an intense vocal performance took a beautiful song into a whole new dimension.
Wonderment from the same album followed and Chastity’s choppy guitar breaks were quite astounding at times; which while I know she can play guitar, tonight she used her Semi-Acoustic as a lead instrument which was a great surprise.
On previous visits Chastity was accompanied by a pianist, but tonight she played it herself and just like her guitar playing, left me stunned as she channeled her inner Carla Bley at times with her passionate all encompassing playing as Tara watched her like a hawk for key changes.
As the gig ebbed and flowed, Chastity introduced a new song; Mosaic as a ‘work in progress’ for a project she’s working on with the Minnesota Orchestra …and sort of beggared belief as she played it solo on the piano which was beautiful; but I haven’t got the imagination to think what it might be like with a full orchestral backing.
One of the joys of watching music being played live, is when something goes slightly wrong ….which occurred tonight when Chastity got her verses mixed up in a song …. no one else in the world apart from us witnessed it, which I think is rather cool and special.
After 60 very special and intimate minutes Chastity and Tara thanked us for being there; then left the stage only to come back on for an obligatory encore, a particularly ‘heavy’ version of Curiosity, which was met with reverential silence from the audience then a torrent of applause at the end.
This was a really special evening of music from two very talented singer-songwriters who chopped and changed songs into barely recognisable from their recorded versions; but proving that there’s never just one version of a song.