Bournemouth's Old Fire Station served the town for almost a century before being rescued and transformed into an entertainment venue. Over the last 20 years it has hosted countless musicians and artists, and now Music Tree Live has taken up residency against the industrial victorian backdrop of this listed building.
What better way to launch a new venture than an inaugural concert featuring the superlative Sam Kelly Trio. The audience were immersed from the opening bars of the first song of the set as Jamie Francis accompanied Sam's single vocal with his incredibly dextrous banjo technique. A few measures later the beat dropped as Sam's guitar and accordion from Archie Churchill-Moss joined the banjo, leading us through a rhythmic and nuanced arrangmement of Gallows Pole.
The trio proceeded to show off a cleverly curated diverse set list, complete with virtuoisic solos from all three musicians, three part harmony, and plenty of opportunities to sing along. Things even got a little proggy with some ambient electronic textures creeping in later in the evening.
Sam's warm relaxed rapport with the audience created the intimate atmosphere of a living room concert even in the larger venue. Last time I saw the Lost Boys I recall Sam jokingly killing off Cara Dillon due to a slip of the tongue, but at Music Tree Live he managed to stop at holding her children to ransom in exchange for a duet. Jamie was similarly on top form with his modest suggestion that his self penned set of tunes were clearly a work of unparalleled genius. Despite the obvious jest, I'm actually inclined to agree.
Supporting the trio was local singer songwriter Johnny Philips. He was a perfect fit, bringing driving rhythm, fingerstyle guitar ornaments, and a soaring vocal with just a hint of gravel. He reflected some of the politcal messages of the band, albeit in a much more direct way, whilst putting some well chosen tech to great musical use.
The whole evening was presented with quality sound and the warmest of welcomes, with food and drink on offer at the conveniently placed bar. Having another platform for local and national artists alike outside of the festival circuit contributes to supporting live music throughout the entire year in a town that is too often neglected.
Words: Lee Cuff
Photos: Jo Elkington
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