Ever since hearing Abi Wade on the One Inch Badge Sea Monsters comp which I reviewed, I’ve wanted to see her play live. I missed one chance before and then she went on a tour with Patrick Wolf. This annoyed me a bit because I saw him play ages ago and his support acts were fucking dreadful. I’d have much preferred having Abi Wade instead. Finally another date came around to give me a chance to see her perform.
It was finally something a bit different. I’ve seen surely hundreds of singers with guitars ranging from the damned awful at open mic nights to the absolutely fantastic fantastic like Marika Hackman. When you’ve exposed yourself to that it’s hard to get excited about similar stuff unless you know it’s going to be incredible.
“My mate Dave is playing guitar in a pub later, wanna come?” your housemate says to you. You look down at yourself covered in crumbs from the Frazzles and cheese sandwich you just ate and then look up at Jeremy Clarkson’s yellowing teeth shining dimly on the TV screen. You wave your friend off and return to your stupor hoping this is the episode where Richard Hammond nearly dies.
This is why I got so excited about Abi Wade. She plays a cello. I don’t want to give the wrong impression though. That isn’t the reason why she’s good, the attraction to her music isn’t inherent from the use of a not-so-common instrument, but the cello is my favourite instrument. If you disagree, listen to the opening of the first movement of Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor so you can find out how wrong you are (how that video has over 2 and a half million less views than Yo-Yo Ma’s version I don’t know). So with being presented with a hugely talented musician playing cello, you can see why I was so quick to brush the crumbs off my top and throw my TV out the window.
Playing as a solo artist at the Green Door can be a bit of struggle if the bar’s busy, especially so if your music depends a lot on dynamics. Luckily there was only a slight din coming from the other room which reminded me a bit of sitting in a noisy cafe, but instead of having some 30 year old jazz singer who has seemingly based their entire repertoire on pop covers of jazz classics, we got something interesting.
Her music live seems very different to how it sounds recorded. That isn’t a negative comment on either, but they certainly have their own distinct feel. Hearing her live is a bit more enthralling as you get to see her play her instrument in the flesh. Unless you go to classical concerts a lot, you don’t really see someone play a cello and it’s a great instrument to watch, never mind how great it sounds in a room like the Green Door. You get to hear every scratch and pluck in fine detail. Then of course there’s the full-on deep boom from her drum box she’s controlling with her feet.
Abi Wade seemed confident on stage even when needing to make minor adjustments or move to play the piano. I’d not heard any of her piano pieces before, but the two she played were just as fantastic proving my point that this isn’t just about her playing a cello. One of the songs she played wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Amelie soundtrack, but it still sounded strongly in her own style. My highlight of the night though was the track “Hope” which sounds like the kind of music you’d imagine running through Jim Morrison’s head when he was off his face in the desert chasing lizards.
The whole set was just great. None of the songs are weaker than others, and she hasn’t fallen down the trap – that many solo artists do – of writing a bunch of songs that sound all too similar to one another. There is her underlying style to each song along with them having their own individual touches to differentiate each one from another.
It’s been one of the most interesting gigs I’ve been to in awhile. It was marred only slightly by some prick in a red trilby attempting to make some awful jokes about this and that. Based off his fashion choices I’ll bet on him being found dead in a call centre toilet, crushed under his realisation of his lack of self-worth within a year. Hopefully the hat, and his awful jumper, will get cremated with him.
Words: Joshua Danton Boyd