I’d heard about Gilmore & Roberts long ago and had been very tempted to go and see them for a while. Particularly when I found out that Katriona had once been a member of Tiny Tin Lady (who I’d seen supporting Fairport Convention before) and even more particularly once I found out that she’d also been a member of the Albion Band. Luckily Gilmore & Roberts were at Cropredy last year, so I finally got to see them. As expected, they were so good I knew I’d have to see them again, so when they were signed up to play at Twickfolk I was first in the queue.
I was not the only one keen to see them. More and more people arrived and the club had to go and get more chairs from the bar to accommodate everyone. I had been sitting in the front row, but another row of seats got added in front of me. Managed to slip forward and restore poll position, but it did mean that there was very little space between my knees and the stage. The significance of this will be revealed later.
The evening began with a few songs from Louis de Beaumont. As soon as he started to sing I thought, ‘Wow, he sounds just like John Martyn’. Thought he was too young to even know who John Martyn was, but he ended that song by saying that that was a song that he had written in his John Martyn phase. He explained that he used to perform mainly his own material, had recently only performed covers, but he had decided that now he was only going back to onyy playing his own songs again. However, he then realised he had forgotten his set list, couldn’t remember what he had planned to play, and ended up including “Blackwaterside” in his set.
Katriona and Jamie opened with a new song, “Bone Cupboard”, an alternative expression to skeletons in your closet. They sang it almost a capella, accompanied by occassional chords on Jamie’s guitar, and Katriona’s percussion foot pedal.
Their second song was also new: “Average Joe”. After the first verse Katriona attempted to rouse us with a cheer of ‘Good Evening Twickenham’. As is customary at these events, the crowd responded with an uncommitted mumble, and was suitable chastised for lack of any animation. At a second attempt at ‘Good Evening Twickenham’, we managed a more whole-hearted ‘Good Evening’ return. Gilmore & Roberts, as their name suggests, are a duo, and perform a lot of two part harmonies, but some of their material, such as “Selfish Man” is written as a three part harmony, and so they rely on audience participation. It must be quite worrying if you are hoping to involve the audience but are faced with silence from the outset, but if they were worried about the response from Twickfolk, they worried needlessly. When asked to sing, the crowd joined in with gusto. So much so that at one time Katriona jokingly scolded us for being too loud.
Jamie broke a string almost at the start of “Average Joe”, but they carried on regardless through the song. At the conclusion, whilst Jamie quickly replaced the string, Katriona kept the audience entertained by talking about the two new songs. Jamie then pointed out that he did not have her ability to chat, so if she had broken a string on her violin or on her mandolin, she would have to replace it in stony silence. He was joking though as throughout the evening they were both very witty, and so were the audience.
At one time, when Katriona was tuning, someone in the audience called to Jamie to tell a joke. He did. It was one I hadn’t heard before, and it actually made me burst out with laughter. Won’t tell it here as that would (a) ruin any chance of Jamie telling it again and (b) without Jamie’s timing the joke wouldn’t quite work, but someone in the audience then called out to Katriona to hurry up, implying that they were worried that if she took any longer in tuning then there was a danger that Jamie might tell another joke.
Katriona also made me burst out with laughter when introducing “Fleetwood Fair”, she took on the role of a primary school teacher, and acted as if the Twickfolk crowd were young children – 'We’re going to do a ghost song, is that all right? It isn’t too dark in here, so I think you’ll be OK. You can always hold the hand of the person next to you if you get a bit worried. Unless the prospect of that is worse.'
The majority of their songs are little stories, some of them quite tragic, (such as their heartbreaking song “Travelling In Time”, from their first album) and some comical (such as their distinctly peculiar story “The Stealing Arm” about a soldier who lost an arm due to cannon fire who then had a re-graft from a thief).
Katriona plays a mandolin (left handed) and a violin (right handed), though not both at the same time and Jamie has two distict guitar playing styles: one in which he sits with the guitar on his lap where he plays it partly like a dulcimer, partly like a percussion instrument. Suspect he probably has extra pickups internal to that particular guitar. They are both equally happy in singing the lead or providing harmonies, so between them they provide a lot of variation, so at no point did the audience lose interest.
For their encore, they decided to play unplugged, and to add an up close and personal feel they stepped off the stage and stood in the audience. I’ve already pointed out that there was very little space between my knees and the stage, so you can tell that they really were up close. Katriona asked the two people to my immediate right if they were OK, then turned to me, grinned, and said “You’re alright.”. Kicked myself afterwards for not being quick witted enough to say “I’m scared – can you hold my hand?”
Happy to report that they announced that they will be playing at the Ram Club in Thames Ditton at the end of the year. Another venue which is near to where I live. I’ll aim to be first in the queue there as well.
She Doesn't Like Silence
The Stealing Arm
Travelling In Time
Scarecrow/ Elzick's Farewell
Louis Was A Boxer
White Wheeled Limousine
Ghost Of A Ring
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