Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ken Bruce

The Coles attended a concert party on Friday evening; Duke Special, who we last saw back in the winter of 2005, was headlining an ‘Acoustica Special’ at Gloucester's famous Guildhall. Duke remains a fine talent although subtle changes in the fellow’s material, stage presence and in the overall presentation and arrangement of his songs have conspired, in our opinion, to water down the whole package. Back in 2005, this artist impressed mightily. There was a hint of the underground about his act then, the songs were edgy and unusual while a shy, almost diffident, demeanour kept the audience enthralled. On Friday (and I ‘blame’ the securing of a record contract with the ensuing influx of agents and managers and industry nous) the songs were pleasing, interesting but a touch safe, more eye contact and repartee with the crowd suggested a more relaxed but less remarkable personality while the well-rehearsed combo backing Special added plenty of musical acumen but not one ounce of the spontaneity or eccentricity that so astounded last time. I’m happy for Duke Special that his career has developed and that, by all accounts, his songs are all over Radio Two like a rash. I guess success can be measured in different ways but part of me regrets that a once mesmeric and quirky performer has embraced the mainstream so wholeheartedly and lost many of the facets that constituted a captivating and idiosyncratic niche.

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