The aptly named Heaven’s Gate is a monthly Americana night at 81 Renshaw Street ,Liverpool . This is a superb venue which consists of a café, bar, vinyl record shop and concert room. Heaven indeed! What’s more the building has great historic significance in that it was the home of Bill Harry’s legendary Mersey Beat magazine in the early 1960’s.
Tonight’s Heaven’s Gate event was as special as the venue itself , as it featured the wonderful “supergroup” Bennett Wilson Poole ,the three principals of which are Robin Bennett [ Dreaming Spires], Danny Wilson [Grand Drive and Danny And The Champions Of The World] and legendary Rickenbacker 12-String maestro Tony Poole of 1970’s folk-rockers Starry Eyed And Laughing.
BWP’s eponymous album was released last month and is an absolute cracker. I could wax lyrical about the album but I can’t do better than refer you to Mike Davies’ excellent review for this magazine.
There is certainly a “buzz” about BWP as evidenced by the capacity crowd which packed the concert room . It’s always a good sign when the audience contains a good number of fellow musicians and that was certainly the case tonight, including some well-known names ,both locally and nationally.
The evening got off to a flying start with a short set from local band Mudcat Landing , whose energetic country-rock set things up nicely for what was to follow.
Next up was singer-songwriter Steve Roberts who is best-known for being the front man for 1980’s Liverpool band 16 Tambourines who made one major-label album ,”How Green Is Your Valley”, for Arista Records, before splitting up. Steve later made a well-received solo album “It Just Is” . Steve is a fine , witty songwriter as evidenced by songs like “Waiting For The Storm”, “I Used To Be Pretty” and “From Speke To Waterloo” and he received a warm response from the appreciative crowd.
Finally came the main event ,Bennett Wilson Poole who were augmented by drummer Scott Kenny and bass player Joe Bennett [ Robin’s brother]. For those unfortunate souls who are not yet familiar with BWP , their sound is best described as a glorious amalgam of the 12-string guitar sound of The Byrds , the 3-part harmonies of Crosby Stills and Nash and the rootsy guitar rock of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. They have also been likened to a latter-day Travelling Wilburys , hence their jokey nickname of “The Travelling Crosbyrds”.
BWP proceeded to play their superb album in its entirety , beginning with the glorious 12-string driven “Soon Enough”, which recalled The Byrds in their prime [I can vouch for this as I am old enough to have seen them play live]. Tony Poole obviously relished playing in front of such an appreciative crowd and , throughout the evening added quotes from other songs which he invited the audience to name ,including “Pretty Woman” “My Back Pages” and “Norwegian Wood”.
The songs on the BWP cover a wide range of topics ,including depression [ Robin and Danny’s “Hide Behind The Smile”] and Danny’s grandparents’ shop in Melbourne [“Wilson General Store”] which was actually written by Robin.
Tony’s superb “Hate Won’t Win” was written as a reaction to the shocking murder of Jo Cox MP and is a sequel ,both lyrically and musically , to Neil Young’s “Ohio”,which , in turn was written in response to the Kent State University shootings in May 1970 . To underline the link , tonight BWP segued from “Hate Won’t Win” into a gorgeous version of Stephen Stills’ song “Find The Cost Of Freedom” , which was the B-side of the “Ohio” single by CSNY. The juxtaposition of these two emotional songs was positively electrifying.
Another great song by Tony is “Lifeboat [Take A Picture Of Yourself]”which he wrote after reading two articles, one about refugees on a boat and the other about people who take selfies. The song turned into an extended three way guitar jam , which included a wonderful Crazy Horse-style solo from Danny. A great way to end what was a fantastic performance ,which received a rapturous response from the crowd , who demanded an encore.
Living up to their nickname, what else could they do for an encore but a faithful rendition of the Wilburys’ [George Harrison-penned] “Handle With Care”. Bearing in mind the location of the venue and its association with The Beatles, this was a most fitting conclusion to what had been a fabulous performance. BWP seemed genuinely overcome by the reception that they deservedly received.
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