I don’t usually change my mind where it comes to music or musicians. I’m past the point in my life where I worry about what music I like and what other people’s opinion of it is. So in a rare turn of events I gave one Charlie Simpson a second chance….and boy am I glad I did. From being in the band that I will refer to as the ‘B’ word you’re usually never going to garner critical respect ever. Charlie tried in Fightstar, but due to one moment at Boardmasters a good few years ago when he walked on stage with his arms out like a saviour, I again wrote him off as an egotistical dick, forever to be ignored henceforth. Fast forward to last August when I rolled into the Beach Sessions at Boardmasters for Newton Faulkner, to see a young lad armed with a decent batch of tunes, lacking in confidence but likeable enough. It was only after watching him for about 20 minutes that I realised he looked familiar. I got my hands on a flyer for the gig and was amazed it was none other than Charlie Simpson…the lad who was to all intents and purposes musically dead to me. Further respect was given on my part when I noted that he was playing The View stage the next day at the Boardmasters festival in Watergate Bay….fair play working his way up from the bottom, I like that.
Rather a poor decision but I still decided to pass on picking up his debut solo album ‘Young Pilgrim’, that is until I was kindly invited to cover his gig in Falmouth. So I rectified this and I will happily hold my hands up and say that I was wrong about Charlie Simpson…..very wrong. He’s obviously grown up a lot, the songs he has put together on Young Pilgrim smack maturity beyond his 24 years, I guess being in the music business since your early teens ages you a lot faster.
Enough waffling on to the show. Kicking things off was a rather amiable chap by the name of Sam Beeton, by the time he hit the stage we’d already done an interview with him and were due to shoot an acoustic session (which is already live on the site) when the next band were on-stage. A a solo performer with no back-up from a band it’s always a daunting prospect playing support slots, more for the fact that will anyone pay you any attention, as you can’t make huge amounts of noise just on your own.
Sam managed to win the crowd over very quickly. His banter is whimsical and humourous, and luckily the most important part….his songs are great as well. He really has that Bob Dylan air about him especially when he straps on the Harmonica! It’s like if Bob Dylan could sing and was handsome he’d be Sam Beeton.
Other styles flow through as well, I get an early Jason Mraz vibe from him as well. All too soon the slot is over and it’s off to peel Sam away from the veritable throng of young girls queueing up for a cd, picture, hug and a chat. Finally we get going and due to the noise the only place to shoot happens to be the Disabled Toilet!
In doing this however I totally missed the set from Union Sound Set a band fronted by Charlie’s brother.
In the pit nice and early ahead of Charlie’s appearance I have a nosy at the set list and it’s well put together with the singles nicely interspersed with album tracks, b-sides and even a Jackson Browne cover thrown in for good measure. Charlie hits the stage to a more high-pitched reception that I’m usually used to as the majority of the audience is of the female persuasion, luckily the panty throwing I anticipated pre-show doesn’t happen!
After having ‘Young Pilgrim’ on repeat for the two weeks leading up to the show, it’s nice to be at a gig where I’m familiar with the majority of the material for a change. Kicking off with his second single ‘Parachutes’ the crowd are instantly singing the chorus back to him with gusto. A good way to get everything going is followed up by ‘Suburbs’ and my fave ‘Thorns’….even though Charlie did stuff up the opening verse!
‘I Need A Friend Tonight’ followed, and while only an album track it’s still a corker, with great harmonies that the whole band lend their voices to at various points.
Having had a looksee at the set list I was fairly surprised to see ‘Down Down Down’ at this point in the set, for me it’s a banker for the encore….nobody seemed to mind however with the singing and clapping only getting louder with every song. Charlie in perfect voice when he belts out the bridge of the song. The change-up in this song is great, almost a country rhythm to it which looks a lot of fun to play as the whole band light up with smiles when they get to that part.
His third single ‘Cemetery’ followed a great performance of ‘Sundown’. With only 2/3 of the set done and no more singles to fall back on it shows how confident Simpson must be in his album tracks to not need one for the encore.
The next song is a real treat for the Simpson hardcore amongst he audience as he plays a track off ‘When We Were Lions’ his Pledge-only EP which you can’t find for love nor money ‘If I Hide, Will You Come Looking?’
The upbeat ‘All At Once’ gets toes tapping in the auditorium, again the harmonies are particularly wonderful in this tune. As the tracks on the album were all harmonised by Charlie himself, he’s done a great job in putting a band together who can all play their parts vocally as well as instrumentally.
The pace is slowed for the balladtastic ‘If I Lose’ before Charlie & Co. sign off with current single ‘Farmer & His Gun’, with some nifty Harmonica work by back up singer Nick Warpole. Charlie departed to a reception befitting his status as one of British music’s most prolific contributors over the past decade.
Returning to the stage with a Jackson Brown cover that features as a B-Side on his latest EP ‘Barricades Of Heaven’ it’s not hard to see why the comparison with one of his greatest influences has been made. The final track is the epitome of saving the best until last ‘Riverbanks’ and as you can see in the video below they really leave it all onstage with this performance.
A cracking night, I managed to grab a few word with Charlie backstage after the show, he struck me as a very gracious guy and not the raving egotist I had him pegged as all these years.
Need A Friend
Down Down Down
If I Hide, Will You Come Looking?
All At Once
If I Lose It
Farmer & His Gun
Barricades of Heaven