On the 29th of March, the intimate upstairs venue at the Fox and Newt pub in Leeds played host to a compelling night of storytelling, poetry and music.
The set opened with Roy, a spoken word artist who blends the fictional with real life to tell captivating, witty and dark tales about the ordinary and extraordinary. Roy has recently showcased apowerful series of spoken word performances on Shaun Keaveny’s BBC Radio 6 Music show in the lead up to the station’s festival in Liverpool. However, to see Roy live brought a whole other dimension to his performance.
A highlight of Roy’s set was the story ‘From A to B’ which centres around a character called Brian Scanlon, a figure who recurs in many of Roy’s other tales. This story, which may or may not be true, set the tone for the rest of Roy’s performance where the serious met the hilarious, talking about everything from murdered criminals to the character Max Farnham from Brookside. Roy’s wry musings of life in Liverpool hooked the audience and allowed for a unique and reinvigorating take on the art of spoken word.
Following Roy was the equally mesmerising punk poet, Toria Garbutt. Like Roy, Toria had the crowd in the palm of her hand as she delivered a set brimming with amusing, down to earth and heart-wrenching poems.
Toria showcased her ingenious poetic reflections about life growing up in Knottingley, an ex-mining town in West Yorkshire. Amongst the countless piercing lines throughout her performance, there were some of pure brilliance. To name just a couple there is the line ‘my knight in shining shell suit’ in ‘First Kiss’ and ‘that in between space after school before tea, just sunshine and telly and settee and me’ in ‘The Universe and Me’.
In between the astute anecdotes of life in ‘Knottla’ were incredibly emotive and moving pieces of spoken word. For example, Toria performed ‘Makeover’, a beautifully crafted poem which relates to her sister’s heroin addiction. She also treated the audience to a more recent poem dedicated to her son on his 12th birthday. Amongst others, these personal and touching stories brought a tear to many in the crowd.
Nick Ellis was the final act of the evening and brought yet another stunning and unique performance to the stage. The Liverpudlian’s music has been coined as “streetscape narrative noir” whilst sounding like “a conversation between Elvis Costello and John Martyn”. The culmination of hypnotic folky guitar, incredible vocals and gripping lyrics complimented the earlier performances of the evening.
There is an atmospheric soul and a craft for storytelling that is inherent in Nick Ellis’ music. This was showcased in tracks such as ‘Jesus of Twine’ taken from his latest album Speaker’s Corner, composed amidst the political and social turbulence of recent times. Amongst songs ingrained with politics and socialism were those of love and loss. For example, the beautiful ‘Clockwatching’ and the haunting and melancholic ‘Blue Summer’ that entranced the audience.
Nick Ellis transcends the boundaries of country, blues and folk to create music that is unique and deeply moving. His performance concluded one of those rare gigs that you wish could bottle up and savour again and again. The sheer talent of all three performers is almost impossible to convey, I can only urge that you go and see them live, you will not be disappointed.
Header Image Nick Ellis