It’s not unusual for me to spend a Saturday evening travelling to a gig, but a gig less than 20 minutes away, what a bonus! Pity my Brains main man Jamie Richards is developing quite a schizophrenic personality (gig wise at least) with the Pity my Brain alter ego Woodfired summit (check em out on facebook ) putting on this little shindig led by the Alarm’s main man Mike Peters. Now I have to admit never having heard of the venue itself and with Crickhowell being such a tiny place I initially spent a bit of time wondering where the Hell have they put a concert venue? Directions sorted and a real pleasant surprise that it could, in fact, hold about 300. That’s for a seated gig, which this started out as.
Settling in front and centre you had the feeling that this had the potential to be a bit special, and finding out that there were going to be two hour-long sets tonight the first Act being called Downstream (Eye of the hurricane) and the second act Upstream (Change) with the additional encore made up of crowd faves and requests. What I couldn’t imagine at the beginning was that the songs from both seminal albums weren’t going to be just stripped back acoustica, but totally reworked and re-interpreted, adding in the fact that the albums had been torn apart, reset mixed up to supply a narrative, a story if you like that runs throughout, then add in some addition work again placed in order but all the while building the story.
Looking around the rapidly filling venue seeing the Alarm flags draped over the upstairs balcony, picking up the hint of anticipation from the crowd, it was time to strap in and at 7.30 exactly we began, one man, kick bass drum, harmonica and electric acoustic.
Opening with a spoken word intro picked up by Mike and we’re into “A New South Wales” sounding nothing like I’ve ever heard it presented before, the sparse backdrop, minimal lighting bringing the focus onto Mike Peters, the voice as strong as ever.
This is no simple rerun of the aforementioned albums, and in Act 1 the songs that really stood out were “Ghost’s of Rebecca”, “The Ballad of Randolph Turpin” and “Irish sea”, fitting so well, they could/should have taken their place on Eye of the Hurricane?.
I think at this point there are a couple of strands of the story starting to come together, a story steeped in Welsh Tradition and History, moving into the industrial revolution, before becoming about one mans life, and what keeps him moving forward, never losing touch with his heartland, the place of his birth. The man’s legacy as imagined becoming ever entwined with his own cultural identity.
As we moved through Act 1 standouts also included “Rain in the Summertime” “Only love can set me free” and “One step closer to home”
Moving into Act 2 opening with “Where a town once stood” there’s a very different feel, heavier more raw almost bluesy and for me the nite really took off with stunning versions of “Sold me down the river”, “Prison without bars”, “Scarlet” and “Devolution working mans blues”, within the narrative I think a point of realization for the narrator, a sense of where they are and struggles defeated and struggles to come. Fair play this is Mike Peters putting himself out there, raw emotional and in your face.
But to my one gripe of the evening, when an artist is pouring out their soul, SHUT THE FUCK UP OR LEAVE THE VENUE!!!! I never get why people pay to get pissed and talk all through an acoustic performance, go home and settle in with your Strongbow watch the X factor where your knowledge of music can be espoused without annoying other people who likewise have paid to see said artist. Perhaps we could give promoters a licence to cull the idiots. Rant over !!!!
Coming back for the encore we get “Strength”, “Spirit of 76”, “Blaze of Glory” and two requests “The Majority” and “Bells of Rhymney”, by this time very few in the venue are still seated!!!!
It’s back to the alter ego with Pity my Brains 5th party coming up at Clwb Ifor Bach, on the 9th of November. Here’s to many more years of musical diversity and perhaps promoters being given the power to do something about the idiots more interested in getting pissed and talking rather than listening to music.
Author: Nev Brooks