When Already Heard arrived at Manchester’s Star & Garter to catch long time favourites Rob Lynch and Allison Weiss on their ‘Chilling In The UK Tour’ it’s fair to say there was a distinctly palpable sense of relief in the air that the gig was happening at all. The string of dates was put in major doubt after a series of allegations were made about the personal life of original co-headliner Front Porch Step. Thankfully after much hard work behind the scenes from the Lynch and Weiss camps, the tour was able to go ahead, with the allegedly disgraced McElfresh replaced by a series of local openers.
For this night the opener was impressive young singer songwriter Sammi Battles. Battles had clearly brought plenty of loyal followers with him, and quickly won over those not already in his fan club. His excellent gravel laden Brian Fallon meets Frank Turner vocal style and easy going well crafted acoustic folk-pop getting heads nodding thoughtfully and appreciatively throughout the room. (3/5)
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Few songwriters have quite the endearing appeal that make audiences instantly fall in love with them that Allison Weiss possesses. Or the same ability to cram quite so much feeling into their songs for that matter. And with that in mind, Weiss was never going to get anything less then an adoring response from the Manchester crowd. Even if she wasn’t quite on top form thanks to a brutal hangover resulting from drinking with her tour mates. Despite this Weiss was as quirkily captivating live as ever, playing an excellent set dominated by tracks from debut full length ‘Say What You Mean’. ‘One Way Love’ and ‘Making It Up’ both did a great job of adding extra life and energy to the initially subdued room early on.
Of late it’s seemed infuriatingly inevitable that there will be one muppet at every acoustic show that can’t keep their damn trap shut, feeling the need to talk disrespectfully over the performer. And so it proved here. Despite her delicate condition Weiss managed to remain good natured, gently pointing out just how far she had travelled to play the show and directing said offender to somewhere they could squeal their inanity without spoiling things for everyone else. That dealt with Weiss showed that somehow her songwriting only continues to improve with a heartfelt performance of ‘Remember When’, the title track of her most recent EP, followed by a cover of Robyn’s ‘Call Your Girlfriend’ that eked the sort of feeling and tenderness out of the song that the original could only dream of, and one that left the crowd in an awestruck silence.
The feels kept on coming as only Allison Weiss can bring them, with ‘Wait For Me’ sounding even more effortlessly moving live then it does on record, before ‘I Am An Island’ encouraged the crowd to really warm up their vocal chords for the first time. Even on a slightly off day plagued by a sore head and one or two technical problems, Weiss showed why she is one of the very finest singer songwriters on the planet, and one of the most genuine and watchable solo performers currently touring. We already can’t wait for her to return to these shores. Preferably on her own headline run. (3.5/5)
Not many other acoustic musicians could follow Alison Weiss and not be left squarely in her shadow. Thankfully one man more then up to the job is Rob Lynch, who with oddly French styled, fellow acoustic toting side kick Jonny Ward in tow, blasted out a typically bonhomie soaked set much to the delight of everyone present.
Like his recently released debut album ‘All These Night’s In Bars Will Somehow Save My Soul’ things opened up with ,i>’31/32’ and ‘Broken Bones.’ Both tracks served to rapidly increase the rowdy air in the room and began the customary crowd singalong to basically every line of every song, that has become the hallmark of most of Lynch’s headline shows.
Another is Lynch’s laid back gag cracking, and he can be applauded for finally addressing the elephant in the room; FPS’ aforementioned indiscretions that nearly cancelled the whole tour, with a handful of firmly tongue in cheek quips that served to put the topic to bed at least for this night as well as venting his own frustration with the situation. The dry humour continued with a seemingly routine airing of fan favourite ‘Souls’ taking a mildly surreal detour through Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ and ending on Ronan Keating’s ‘When You Say Nothing At All.’ All without the crowd missing a single line of their singalong.
We get a few moments of story time with Rob, as he explains the origins of ‘Stamford,’ but there are definitely no explanations needed for the poignant yet heartwarming ‘Whiskey,’ which still rates as one of Lynch’s finest offerings and never fails to bring a lump to the throat.
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Throughout the set Lynch and Ward (bossing the sort of particularly fine line in turtle neck jumper you just don’t see enough of at gigs) compliment each other well, with Ward’s syrupy sweet vocal blending with Lynch’s rawer delivery to add a rounded feel to each song. Plus there’s clearly a strong and entertaining bromance going on between the two, which demonstrates itself most noticeably in an anecdote about trying to meditate together.
Later we get an early preview of a new song which suggests work an a follow up to the album is progressing rather nicely, and even in its early stages the track measures up well alongside established material. ‘Widow’ bathes the room in yet more wonderfully unabashed sentiment, before ‘My Friends And I’ brings the night to a rousing end. (4/5)
It’s testament to the power of Lynch and Weiss’ prowess as performers and songwriters that such a fantastic evening of live music could go ahead in such a positive and inclusive manner given the negativity that could have so easily seen the whole tour cancelled. It’s night’s like this that make you realise you can keep your overblown stadium shows, pyro and lighting effects. I’d rather have two top people playing relentlessly effecting acoustic songs above a grotty pub in Manchester any day of the week.
Words and Photos by Dane Wright (@MrDaneWright)