Duke Garwood at Deaf InstituteSupport: Kreol Lovecall| Nev Cottee
February 12, 2017 at Deaf Institute
On a cold evening in Manchester, some warmth for the soul was readily available.
First up was pretty much an ideal Sunday evening treat. If there’s something that Mancunians can do better than most, it’s romantic, maudlin cheer. Nev Cottee came across as a strange and welcome
combination of Lee Hazlewood and I Am Kloot – voice of the former, worldview of the latter – and his acoustic guitar playing and laconic, thoughtful phrasing was very well-accompanied by Chris Hillman (mostly) on pedal steel guitar. The pairing, along with some excellent songwriting, has certainly piqued my interest; a new album is promised soon.
On the subject of interesting, the next act was something of a strange revelation. Appearing on stage somewhat nervously as he fiddled with his equipment containing his backing tracks, Kreol Lovecall (or Jonathan, as he introduced himself) performed a genuinely surprising set which rapidly
grew on me and the rest of the gathered audience. Sort of a bit like early Joe Jackson with a selection of short, catchy, slightly angry songs and some excellent between-song banter, it was genuinely unlike anything I’ve heard in a long time and I really enjoyed it. Again, a fine act with an album imminent – although I’ll be interested to see if the recorded output matches the live spectacle.
It wasn’t long before Mr. Lovecall was back onstage, this time as bassist for Duke Garwood’s backing band along with semi-regular sidekicks Paul May on drums and guitarist John J Presley. The gathered audience were calmly entertained by a performance that Garwood himself described as tranquil, which was a perfect way to end the evening.
This “Jacuzzi of Soul” (according to his own Facebook post) began with an opening pair of ‘Coldblooded’ and ‘Sonny Boogie’, followed by a fulfilled promise that the whole Garden of Ashes album would be played. Curiously, this promise was fulfilled literally so ‘Coldblooded’ ended up played twice, but in two distinctly different manners so that everyone present was perfectly happy that this happened.
It’s certainly a hypnotic experience watching Duke Garwood perform. Close your eyes, and it all sounds so utterly effortless as if he’s merely projecting his thoughts via his succession of oft-changing
guitars. Watch the man play though and strings are bent and retuned, knobs are twiddled constantly and the sheer effort of will held over his craft is almost Heath Robinson at times. The end result is worth it though, as Duke’s talent is singular and captivating throughout.
A further, wry promise that the whole of the previous album was to be played also was curtailed to a short selection of choice cuts from Heavy Love with the whole set presented as a delightful whole; although the Deaf Institute’s closeness between stage and audience would have made the whole “walk off for a bit and come back again for an encore” a bit of a faff for everyone.
All in all, this was a really good way to spend a Sunday evening. A great set from the person I came to see, and eyes opened up to those who I hadn’t. Nights out are rarely so complete.