Night Showcase hosted by Rob
Sowden : Andrew Shearer : Damien
"The Soft-Voiced Honesty Strikes
Again" - A Review
by Maija Päivikki Cooper
A little short notice for this gig which wasn't a problem for me but perhaps was a problem for others to get to, especially over the long Jubilee weekend. Indeed I lost a few members of the mailing list this week whom I assume weren't happy about getting a newsletter publicising the gig so soon after the last newsletter. There's no point apologising I guess as I assume they're not reading this but if there's anyone not happy with the number of newsletters they're getting they should let me know and I will try to devise an alternative system to accommodate all levels of interest. Anyhow those of you that did come to the gig, as always: thank you.
Personally, I felt the gig went okay but perhaps you've had enough of my view of things? Fellow musician Maija Päivikki Cooper very kindly offered to write a review and here it is. Obviously the review is slightly biased as we're friends. However as you'll see, and as anyone who knows Maija will attest, she won't let a little old thing like friendship get in the way of the truth. In addition it has to be said that I never ever envisaged that I would have someone of Maija's musical and artistic ability listening to my songs, let alone critiquing them. Very big thanks to her, as, as you can see, it is not an insignificant amount of work that she has put in and I'm very grateful to her for her time, effort, honesty and encouragement. Thanks Maija.
"The Soft-Voiced Honesty Strikes Again" - A Review by Maija Päivikki Cooper
This is my first-ever review of a gig, so please excuse me if I go off to a ramble now and then. But without further ado - let's start!
I truly feel that there should have been a much, much bigger audience seeing Andrew's gigs - but Friday nights are naturally busy time for everyone, and these Showcase nights are not widely enough advertised anyway. Still, whoever wasn't there this Friday missed a great set, which I am now going to analyse song by song.
Andrew started his set with his famous Cold Heart. It is one of my favourite songs, and it certainly is a catchy tune with its powerful rhythm, melody and lyrics. The melody is actually slightly Elvis Presley-like at some points, which I find simply fascinating. Andrew's voice stretches high and low very nicely, and with its characteristic soft and melodic vibe, the low notes especially are sweet to the ears. Cold Heart was a powerful, energetic start, and Andrew looked confident and relaxed on stage (with a nice style as well!). But I couldn't help wondering whether he was going to tire himself with all that energy, so that there wouldn't be any left for the rest of the gig! I was proven wrong.
Next song was Love You To Death - in my mind a funnily sarcastic love or "love" song. Very interesting lyrics. But why did I get a feeling that there was something of a feeling of revenge going on there..? Sometimes I almost seem to catch a glimpse under the surface of all those deep lyrics... I liked Andrew's use of those lovely basic major chords, and I think it's just as well - because this song could be almost morbid if the chords were different. That would be an interesting version, though! This song could possibly do with slightly more powerful singing, to make it a bit more punk.
Then we heard The Things She Said. This song has got a great intro, which received compliments even from some thoroughly non-musical people from the audience! Andrew's stage presence seemed to strengthen during this song, and he really started communicating with the audience at this point. For some reason this song always reminds me of the music of The Smiths! There is a truth here in this song - and some pain as well, perhaps more than reaches the ear. This song could be made even better with a little bit of work on the singing, though; it was slightly out of tune occasionally. Also, maybe add a little bit of sarcasm and the pain in the lyrics could take a whole new meaning... and reach even more people who have at some point in their lives been hurt of all the things someone said. I'm one of those, certainly.
Well, let's move on...
You've Got The Magic Back! This was another powerful song, and a perfect choice after The Things She Said. This song could be sung simply a bit louder. I have a feeling that it was the sound man's fault, because I couldn't catch all the lyrics. Or maybe the language barrier. Either way, in case of another bout of bad audio, this song needs to be ar-ti-cu-la-ted very clearly indeed so that the message reaches even the foreign members of the audience. The chords of this song work well. I always enjoy listening to a good old G C Am D G... Also, Andrew seemed to be in a very good mood during this song, and it certainly gave his performance great energy and pure joy, which could easily be seen. Ve-ry good!
Next Andrew played Silent Valley. This song has a slightly similar chording than You've Got The Magic Back, so some "odd" chords could possibly be added to make it more different. During this song I let my thoughts wander to Andrew's music in general, and several ideas rose to the surface. Firstly - most of his songs are too short! They're songs that the audience would like to listen for longer, and just as everyone is getting the chorus memorised to sing along, the song stops. So maybe Andrew could add a few more choruses or half a verse, or something like that. Also, with Andrew having found his way of creating a hit, there is always the danger of falling into a rut. Every artist does that, and it's a bad habit that must be crushed, like the last cigarette... Andrew could do with throwing some more chords in (as mentioned before), or changing the rhythm ever so slightly, or maybe experimenting with his voice, just seeing how high/low it could go. All his songs are very good, but there is always room for more stuff. As has been told to me, I will now tell Andrew: get out of your comfort zone and get inventing! As for Silent Valley - I just loved the lyrics. They are very honest and simply beautiful. Somehow it made me think of the old-time cowboys in the Wild West, riding alone and singing "I'm a poor lonesome cowboy..." (If you've ever read Lucky Luke comics, you know what I mean).
Then we had Tears Of A Clown. Funky chords! Almost hypnotic. This song could have done with more powerful singing as well, but this version was enjoyable too, naturally. But it was too short! I could have gone on listening to those chords for several hours and not get bored.
Next song was a treat - my favourite song of his set, a song called Crackerjack. As Andrew said, I don't quite know whether it's the fact that the song has something to do with alcohol, but I simply love it. This is a happy song with a very positive, joyful atmosphere. The chords are good - to my ear they sounded like Em G A B-something (what would a classically trained musician know about all those 7s and 6s and a sus-somethings?!)... Anyway, this song always, always puts me into a good mood. The bit were Andrew was talking could be a bit more Elvis Presley-like (where did this sudden Elvis-obsession come from..?), with a lower voice and a bit of sheer comedy. But Crackerjack is a song that makes me jealous that I wasn't one of those people about whom this song was written! I'd love to hear a song like this about myself and my group of friends. Andrew, you have a mission...
Perfect Day was the next song. Oh, it really took me back to certain times of my life... Andrew created such a lovely atmosphere with this song that I could imagine myself back in those carefree summer days when I still was a student in Finland, when the sun was warm and time was slow. This was a nice and calm number, and Andrew's soft voice worked perfectly with this song. Even the bits where the singing was slightly out of tune added to the charm of the performance, because it actually gave it a lovely relaxed feeling of "oh, it's not so serious, let's just relax and enjoy the weather, and then study the stars when the sun sets...".
The next song is another one of my especial favourites - Can't Let Go. Brilliant, cheerful, powerful. But the beat could be changed, because this song is in a danger of falling into the Another Similar Hit Song -category. For some reason I kept thinking that this song could be made into a dance tune! This song is perfect to listen to at somebody's back garden with some chilled rose wine and good company. Or beer will do for me. However, this is another song that could be longer!
And we get to the last song... whose title I quite couldn't catch (Last Night I Saw You Standing There) , so my apologies for that! This song is good and steady material, but a bit too similar than a few other of Andrew's songs. Actually, I could be a bit rude here and shout "Change the beat, dammit!" But Andrew's guitar playing was very powerful and energetic, and his stage presence was still more relaxed, happy, very confident. What I saw during this last song was a man emerging from shyness into an honest, strong, funny and confident performer. The song left me feeling that Andrew should be doing more and longer gigs and keep on writing more stuff, and getting a record contract.
My overall analysis for Andrew's gig could take pages and pages, but let me try to summarise my opinion on these last lines of this review. I won't go into pros and cons (I dislike the expression anyway because there are always more sides than A and B!), but one thing I'd like to say to all of you who listen to Andrew's music or follow his blog:
Andrew Shearer is an excellent, healthy example of a performing musician . He is not big-headed, he doesn't think he is a god, but neither is he too modest or tries to keep himself down. Andrew sees himself as he is, and this very thing makes his performances enjoyable. You can relate to his music and lyrics, and always feel that he is playing for his own enjoyment as well as yours - without trying to be over-the-top funny, but also without withdrawing into some sort of an artistic shell. Andrew has the gift of making people feel good about themselves, and that shows on his performances. His music is enjoyable to everyone; to musician s, non- musician s, dentists, truck drivers - everyone! (Actually, I think that playing Cold Heart on repeat on the truck stereo could keep any truck driver awake, no matter how long the journey!)
So I would strongly recommend Andrew's music to everyone who wants to boost their mood and keep a smile on their faces for days afterwards. Check out his blog posts as well - his writing is characteristically easy to read but intelligent at the same time; suitable even for us foreigners! Thank you, Andrew!
From your friend and a fellow musician
Maija P. Cooper
No, Thank you Maija (:-)
It goes without saying that both Rob and Damien also did great sets. I've also videoed those performances too but haven't yet had time to edit or upload them. When I do, I'll post a Tweet / Facebook notification.