Sunday, March 08, 2009


It was a special Acoustica at Gloucester’s mighty Guildhall Arts Centre on Friday. The main stage was utilised for a brace of fine acts and it seemed a tad strange to move away, temporarily, from the more intimate dais that normally serves the willing music lovers of the city. It was a splendid evening though. The last time I had seen Belinda O’Hooley was at 2007’s Green Man Festival when the engaging and pithy Yorkshire keyboarder had formed one quarter of Rachel Unthanks’s Winterset. She has now left that particular collective and has teamed up with the waif-like Heidi Tidow to form a pleasing duo that harmonises sweetly and delivers pleasant folky songs. O’Hooley is a quaint and wry character and this punter appreciated her witty and perceptive banter almost as much as her singing and playing. The main act, Chumbawamba, was tremendous. The controversial anarchistic outfit has mellowed over the years but still delivered a fabulously thought-provoking set. The five-piece sang magnificently, the varied voices complementing each other gorgeously, tackling subject matter that more mainstream combos would pass by: Darwinism, domestic violence, Mrs Thatcher’s mortality and the worst excesses of Facebook to name but four. We were treated to several English rebel songs, hauntingly chanted with dignity and respect. It sounds a touch po-faced and bleak, I know, but there was plenty of irony and knowing humour, both within the numbers and the ‘tween-number bantering. I’m not sure whether the earnest Chumbawamba yet qualify for ‘National Treasure’ status but they must be heading in the right direction. I commend this bunch of free thinkers; they celebrated England and Englishness rather sumptuously on Friday and I congratulate them keenly. It's merry to tap one's foot and cogitate at the same time.

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