Wednesday, 4th of March, 2015. ‘Belfast Nashville Songwriters Festival, ‘In The Round’ Concert. Starring Amanda St John with Jason Clarke, Kate Gilbertson and Pete Gardiner.
With barely a couple of hours sleep between us, Jane(my trusty wing woman) and I crawl onto the coach at Edinburgh Bus Station, armed with ample knitwear, packed lunches, headphones and adrenaline. We arrived to a sunny and buzzing Belfast, checked-in to our home for the next couple of days and after a few mugs of scalding tea in the garden and listening to some music, we walked five minutes around the corner to The Holiday Inn and from there our ‘BelNash’ really began.
We entered an already busy and bustling ‘Olympic Room’, we were fortunate to grab a great table and to my delight Jane assumed the role of bar duty. I spied Amanda St John and Pete chatting and mingling their way through an eager crowd, Kate and Jason were likely doing the same thing but by now it was getting busier and my perfect view of the entire room and stage were being slightly compromised by the absolute success of a ‘full house’.
The ‘In The Round’ Concert format was much like that of a relay, each artist performing a song in turn. However for the purpose of writing, I have grouped and paired the songs of each musician collectively.
Jason Clarke, who with his eye-catching ‘Limited Edition, Taylor Mini Koa’ , was performing solo for the very first time, took the mic and opened the show with ‘Before he lays you down’. Lyrically heartbreaking, Jason’s voice and rhythm allowed for a regretful account of ‘the one who got away’ to be explained beautifully. Next was ‘Crossfire’ another strong song he had written during the night, leading us to Jason’s final song ‘Ashes’, where he describes the wounds left on a broken heart, self preservation and not allowing himself to feel and fall again, like before. Both Jane and I enjoyed Jason and look forward to hearing these songs again when he gets them recorded.
Further further information, music, news, gig dates and upcoming releases visit Jason Clarke’s Facebook.
I’m no stranger to Amanda St John’s music and for quite some time I’ve wanted to see and hear her live. In perfect unison and with great chemistry, the extremely talented Dean Stevens accompanied on guitar and we witnessed something really special indeed.
This was a masterclass in many respects. Amanda St John looked stunning in her rouge dress, and before each song this classy bombshell connected with the entire audience. Her first song ‘Reach’ describes the sheer frustration of being in a relationship and wishing to go to the next level but the other half is frightened of his feelings and quite possibly a commitment-phobe. Amanda asked her fans recently on social media what they would like to hear at ‘BelNash’. To my utter delight ‘If I Should Fall‘ was chosen and as if that wasn’t enough, Amanda gave a really lovely personal and warm welcome to me for selecting it. Of course Jane was at the bar when this all happened and doesn’t believe a single word of it, but it did happen. This is my favourite song to date by Amanda, its soulful and sultry, crammed full of emotion, describing a desire to be with someone and they just simply don’t see/feel it as you do. The guy in front turned around and asked if it were me Amanda was singing about, I had major ‘beard blush’ at this point. The vocal range demonstrated here was nothing short of mind-blowing, with nowhere to hide and she didn’t need anywhere. This was an emotive show stopper, executed with passion and precision. Her final song of the evening ‘Big Strong Man‘ as a single is an upbeat swinging number but on this occasion was performed in a stripped back style, beautifully played on stage by Dean. Amanda’s phenomenal talent and stage presence, combined with Dean’s wonderful acoustics, resulted in a fantastic performance in every aspect.
Kate Gilbertson was up next, and immediately there was something intriguing about her which I couldn’t put my finger on. Originally from Perth, Australia, Kate already benefits from an international fan base and is popular on the live music scene in Toronto, Canada. Quietly confident and in a cute ginger lace dress, Kate approached with her guitar and began with ‘Sister’, Jane instantly connected to Kate’s voice and I swiftly followed. Kate went on to sing ‘Part Of Me’ which hasn’t been recorded yet, but guaging by the reaction it received I imagine it will feature on her new album. She concluded her set with ‘Home’, this song visits the highs and lows of travelling, missing home and how to find strength, comfort and resilience to create a home where ever she is, a song testament to her natural storytelling ability that can hold an audiences attention.
Pete Gardiner followed up next and was yet another highlight for me, having been following his music for some time. This guy has a unique songwriting talent and is already making a name for himself in the industry. After scoring a record deal with Paul Hardcastle’s record label ‘NUA’ and supporting Charlie Simpson on his tour, much of his time is now spent now on the London gig scene, making his debut album with Tommy McLaughlin from the Villagers. Pete’s singing style cropped up in conversation post gig with a few locals, one likening him to Lloyd Cole, which to some extent I can hear along with a whole lot more. In stylish double denim attire, a sleek, quiff topped Pete along with Justin Stewart also on guitar got straight to work opening with ‘James Dean’, a cautionary story on the long term psychological effects of drug abuse. The line ‘Jimmy never had a patch on me’ is still stuck in my head. His next song ‘Crime Scene’ is a favourite of mine, the title being a metaphor for when you have been stuck in a rut. It is by no means a miserable song, with a positive message in there reminding us not to return after we have made the effort to make a fresh start. ‘ Pete finished with ‘Hollywood Lights’, another poignant song, about a girl desperately wanting to make something of her life, to make changes, who is really determined. It talks of the day after when she is dealing with a hangover, surrounded with the reality that makes her miserable, where she is less motivated, the vision has faded and again she is routinely defeated. Pete Gardiner will be making music for a very long time and this excites me.
For more information on Pete Gardiner, gigs and new releases, visit his Facebook.