The highly accomplished performer and songwriter Duke Special (aka Peter Wilson) struck a chord when he recently visited Scotland’s capital, wooing the crowd through a spectrum of emotions as he performed his wonderful and unique style of showmanship.
Based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Peter Wilson is from a long line of piano players. He was in various groups before going solo in 2002, taking the stage name of Duke Special. In that time he has released nine albums, six EP’S and has been nominated for the Choice Music Prize. He has performed extensively throughout his career including on televised events such as live on Later….With Jools Holland and Live at the BBC Proms. His latest album, ‘Look Out Machines!’ was released in early April of this year and comprises of eleven well written polished compositions.
Duke Special walked on stage to screams, whistles and a warm Scottish welcome. With great energy and enthusiasm he took to the keys and started with a bang . After his first number he stopped for a quick chat, offered his thanks to his supporting act ’She Makes War’ (who was incredible), and removed any barriers with the adoring audience by even inviting us on stage if we wished. We satisfied ourselves by moving even closer, snuggled around the stage with him and his piano and absorbed his facial expressions, eye-liner and waist length dreads. He talked and sang his way through a hefty set list, almost 20 songs in total. There was some new and old favourites, a couple of covers each with a back story, some whimsical and light while others had a more personal content.
‘Nail On The Head’ cleverly describes that essential necessity in life of having family and friends around you keeping it real, who sometimes have to give those hard home truths. ‘In A Dive’ is a song about kindness and a huge hit with the crowd who were not shy in showing their appreciation of Duke. As the show progressed, so did the electrifying atmosphere, ‘Step To The Magical’ one of my favorites from his latest collection sounded superb live. ‘Son Of The Left Hand’ has a Gothic/church style to it with tension building throughout, the hard rhythm of bashing drums contributing to its climax. Each song was able to capture and move the audience whether it was light and comical or dark and difficult subject matter. His stage presence is powerful, with a unique and individualistic approach, captivating and endearing to one and all. He finished the show with ’No Cover Up’, a perfect choice on which to end this ‘Avant Garde‘ performance.
One of the highlights for me was ‘Domino’, a beautiful and emotive song I first discovered on the Eastside Arts, ‘Eastside Sessions’ DVD of various Northern Irish talent. On the DVD Duke Special plays in the historical and atmospheric offices of Harland and Wolf. This song gives me goosebumps and gets me every time.
Of his cover songs, ‘The Alabama Song‘ really shone out for me, making this well known track his very own. Afterwards he happily stopped and chatted to us and signed his new album. I shared my appreciation of ‘The Alabama song’ with him, which he then in turn told me of its history, not from The Doors as I had thought. It is true, you learn something new every day. The whole evening from start to finish was an absolute showstopper. He pulled off a fantastic performance and as I left the venue, I found myself humming ‘Andrew in drag’ all the way home.
To visit the Duke Special website, music store/stream, videos, upcoming gigs, news and links to his social media, click the image below.