Currently touring the UK supporting Clem Burke’s band The Tearaways, Ryan Hamilton pencilled in a couple of intimate, acoustic songs & stories shows in between touring duties. So following a Saturday night in the company of Frank Turner’s acoustic album release show at The Brudenell, we take a Sunday evening drive to the idyllic, sleepy town of Otley, just a few miles away from the masses nursing hangovers and sunburn at Leeds Festival.
Bloomfield Square is the coffee shop come print shop owned and run by Terrorvision frontman Tony Wright. He sometimes hosts gigs, this is one of those. It’s certainly the most intimate gig I have attended, more of a house concert than an acoustic gig. It’s sold out, and there are maybe 25 people here.
The two sealed their friendship a couple of years back by recording a Country album together. ‘Grand Ole Otley’ (get it?) You should! Unfortunately there no Country collaboration with the two tonight, Tony is serving drinks while Ryan sings songs and plays guitar, accompanied by a couple of his Harlequin Ghosts, i.e. bassist Rob Lane and keyboard player Carol Hodge.
“Im sweating like a blind whore in a cucumber patch!” Says Ryan after an extra chilled one-two of ‘Bottoms Up’ and ‘Records and Needles’ opens the set in fine style. Yep, as the man says, it’s very hot in here.
Carol’s harmonies are the perfect accompaniment to the be-hatted Texan songwriter, the likes of ‘Feels Like Falling In Love’ and ‘Won’t Stop Now’ are full of emotion and the band sound great. So intimate it almost feels wrong to join in singing. But as the heat rises and the drinks flow, we lose our inhibitions and sing along. The songs float by like a summer breeze, it’s a shame they can’t actually conjure up a summer breeze in here!
This is not like a normal gig, this is just like watching your mates jam at a house party. Tony comes down the stairs with a fan to help cool Ryan’s ass, “What the fuck’s going on in this country? Global warming…don’t tell my president, we just tried to buy Greenland!” says Ryan at one point.
The laid back rock ‘n’ roll of ‘Get Down’ works well and ‘Never Should Have Moved To LA’ with its “See You Next Tuesday” refrain is high energy euphoria, just as it is on record.
Never afraid to expose his bad luck stories and experiences we get tales of cheating, drug addiction and drunken drummers, and of course his ongoing fascination with English swear words. All told as he swigs from a bottle of red wine. It’s highly amusing and very entertaining.
The most fascinating of those stories is the tale of Smile Smile. The story of the former band he had with his fiancée is truly fucked up and I realise this is something he is still dealing with and what a large majority of his lyrics are actually relating to. I won’t go into details, you can find out more if you look about, but there could well be a documentary on the way, so look out for that.
‘Truth On Tape’ is a Smile Smile song and documents his fucked-up former life. A song he emailed to his ex as a diatribe, which she then wrote melodies to and sent back to him. They did that a few times, had enough for an album, then they toured it. Now that’s fucked up! It’s a heartbreaking ballad that takes on new meaning when you know the background to it.
Springsteen style, he tells some of the back story mid-song and goes into how Rolling Stone called them out for sounding like a U2 song, then he breaks into ‘With Or Without You’…same chords and melody, yeah! They then mash it up, the Truth On Tape chorus with Carol singing the U2 backing vocals, clever stuff and a highlight of the evening.
‘Be Kind Rewind’ incites the most enthusiastic crowd response. That poptastic, sing-along chorus gives summery vibes, the instrumentation is taken down to minimum accompaniment for the “nah nah nah nah” refrain and we sing like a beautiful choir, albeit a small one. The bass and piano pick back up to take the song to its conclusion.
How often do you get to see a Texan singer/songwriter sing songs with no PA, in a coffee shop in Yorkshire run by the singer from Terrorvision? Not very often is the answer! But life throws out these opportunities and you have to grab them while they last.
Like witnessing a gig in your own front room, Ryan Hamilton and a couple of his Traitors played a special, intimate show that succeeded in capturing the essence of where live music originated, and what it should be about.
Author: Ben Hughes