Friday, 23 March 2018

Charlie Barnes - West Street Live 22.03.2018

Regular readers of this blog may recall my excitement for Charlie Barnes' latest album Oceanography.  Having seen Charlie perform acoustically before, as well as with his band The Society Pages, I was excited to hear he was returning to Sheffield to play at West Street Live.

Following sets by Sheffield groups Hush and K A R A, Charlie and his band took to the stage with the insanely catchy 'All I Have' which features some deliciously-jangly guitar riffs, before launching into the anthemic 'Bruising'.  Anyone who's ever tried to make a living through creative endeavours will relate to these tracks about self-doubt, imposter syndrome and the need for a thick skin and perseverance, as shown in the lyric, 'Every time I've half a mind to throw the towel in, I fight it'. 

Next up was 'Maria', a track which showcases songwriter Barnes' ability to meld a haunting verse with a pop-influenced chorus, not to mention a Queen-influenced guitar break which allowed Charlie's personality and showmanship to come to the fore.

Barnes swapped guitar for keyboard for the epic 'Easy, Kid' from 2015's More Stately Mansions, which also fully demonstrated the frontman's vocal range .  I have to admit to being close to tears as this wistful song, which would be worthy of a film score, reverberated around the venue.  Rousing title track 'Oceanography' was up next to further batter the souls of the emotionally-challenged, followed by 'MacbethMacbethMacbeth', 'The Departure' and 'Ruins'.  By the time the penultimate song of the evening, single 'Will and Testament', was played Charlie was in full theatrical swing, engaging with the crowd (including a group of students on a round of pub golf who were keen to foist a cheap green visor on the front man - they didn't succeed), briefly channelling Mr Motivator as he encouraged us to copy the hand moves he demonstrated.  However, I doubt Mr Motivator would ever swap his trademark lycra for a pink floral suit...

As an album More Stately Mansions was billed as 'big morbid death pop' and never was this more apparent than throughout angst-riddled finale 'Sing to God'.  Despite playing right up until the curfew, Barnes and his backing band left the stage to calls for an encore from a crowd who weren't ready for the night to end.

On a personal note I was over the moon that the set included old favourites as well as the new tracks that I'd previously only heard studio versions of and although there were others I'd have loved to have seen live ('One Word Answers' and 'The Weather' in particular) as set lists go it was pretty much perfect.  I was also fortunate to say a very quick hello to Charlie after the gig, although I didn't have chance to say everything I'd have liked to (important stuff like where can I get a physical copy of Geekk, as it's great music to write to?), nor tell him how much I loved the gig and how I relate to Oceanography's focus on the importance of validation as an artist with every ounce of my soul.

So, for today, Charlie, let me be your validation.  Keep doing what you're doing, because you are a fucking awesome musician and a true performer.  Your music makes me happy.

Find out more about Charlie Barnes on Facebook.

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