Words: Elizabeth Mayfield ft. Aaron Connelly
Imagine an open air festival; people sat down, sunglasses, beer in hand, smiling and laughing. Now picture that in a small indoor venue. I’ve always been of the belief that acoustic music is made for the outdoors (around a campfire, ideally, but you’d need a big campfire for a crowd of this size), and throughout, this set feels as though it would have been better to be performed at a festival – it feels a little eccentric that the show is indoors, in fact.
From the off, eccentricity seems to be a bit of a theme for the night, with an opening speech about Wigan football club before Josh launches into first track of the night and first off his album, Everyone’s Alone. Despite the sombre lyrics, the track is delivered in an unavoidably upbeat manner, his voice almost spilling offstage and around the room. Although his performance is overpoweringly energetic, there is a certain core control present throughout this track and the entirety of his set, with a down-to-earth speech about his father accompanying the second track, Bird of Prey. A personal favourite off the record, and a personal favourite of the night, mostly for the way in which the band upped the enthusiasm from the second verse, before bringing back control over the sound in due time for a solid closure. I felt the levels may have been off occasionally, but what I found more of a pain was the noticeable gap between each and every song; while the crowd appreciated Josh and his band putting everything to the show, I don’t think I’d stand alone in saying that a more fluid set would have been preferable. The energy paid off well though, and by the third track, the majority of the crowd had joined in.
The rather profound line “I spent hours writing these lyrics to bring them into the universe”, opens the fourth track, which was the first song that went ‘badly’ for him, beginning in the wrong key and being unable to find his feet until the third attempt; this I blame on a loss of concentration after a risky comedic move aimed at the Jimmy Saville charges. That being said, this song, for me, was by far one of the most successful of the entire set with well controlled dynamic range and a beautiful two part harmony which made a big impact on the audience, with a sound on par with studio quality.
If you’ve ever seen or read About A Boy, you’ll understand the agony caused by someone singing with their eyes closed, though it wasn’t something I fully understood until this night. The almost-country love song was performed as such, and it felt like – as an audience – we were being intrusive. To add more of an atmosphere, I felt it could have been improved by being more stripped down and slower occasionally; too fast to close your eyes to. That track would have been accurately described as passionate, but it leaves me at a loss for how to sum up the next one, I Want To Break Your Mended Heart. If you think the title alone sounds bitter, the live version was a force to be reckoned with – although he did warn us, “I won’t stab you with my guitar”, it’s clear why the rest of the band left the stage, and I think the break after a song that intense was definitely warranted.
Here, the set moved away from the tracks off his self-titled album, and his ability to create a solid sound throughout a variety of old and new work displayed how he’s adapted with the growth and change of his music. And the change by no means ends there; between tracks he gives vague details of where he’s headed next (which you can hear more about in our interview with him) and plays a new track, Zombie Land. I’m always one for looking for progression in music, and this track has that written all over it. Spoiler: the future of music for Josh Doyle looks rather excellent.
Minus the odd technical issue or two, and giving leeway for Josh’s time to recoup between tracks, the show was well executed – technical accuracy, a studio quality sound and enthusiasm to smother the room made for a show as zesty, honest and sincere as his recorded sound. A must-see for fans of Frank Turner’s angrier work!