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Rosalie Cunningham- 01-03/08/19

Bristol - Winchester - London

I know my loyal readership love a pointless anecdote or two and as nothing too much happened between these shows (at time of writing) these anecdotes are going to be at the top-end of pointless. For those new to these pages, you can either endure them or just skip to the shows (they’re highlighted with a title).

Intromission (an intermission before there is anything to ‘intermiss’)

The most exciting event of the coach trip up to Bristol was a seat discussion at Exeter (I did warn you nothing much happened). On the back row were a mother and her child sitting in the middle, a guy on the end and this left a seat free either side of the mother/child combo. A couple as they got to the back asked if the mother/child combo wouldn’t mind moving up a seat so they could sit together and the woman replied ‘No, I want the middle seat’. The guy of the couple said ‘I am only asking you to move up one’ but the woman again refused. At this point the ladies opposite me who were not together offered ‘Do you want our seats and we’ll take the two single ones?’ The problem therefore was solved however at this point the mother went to the toilet and left the kid to hear the guy of the couple go on about how terrible and rude his mother was and I felt a bit sorry for him. Anyway the reason I have bought up such a boring anecdote other than to fill space is because it reminded me of a previous coach story that I might have mentioned but didn’t have the fantastic pun that will end this account.

On a previous trip to Birmingham I had to endure two men from Cornwall talking loudly about what a great guy Trump was and how we needed a guy like him to sort this country out (I guess their dreams have now come true). They loved the wall and his ‘saying it like it is’ stance whilst of course not worrying about the sex allegations, racism allegations, bankruptcy and getting more than a helping hand from daddy. What they didn’t have was a T-shirt with a slogan on and that slogan should have been ‘Build the (Corn)wall!’... it really wasn’t worth it was it?

I arrived in Bristol and hooked up with a couple of friends. Both couldn’t/didn’t want to go to the gig and so after a few pints I bid them farewell. Those pints caused me to become a little inebriated and loosened me up enough to ask my Bulgarian friend over and over again if he was sure he didn’t want to come to the show. For all those that read this and know him (one other person) you will know once he has decided something he never changes his mind and so I enjoyed the pointlessness of it all (it’s a skill also needed for this review so far).

Bristol – The Fleece - 01/08

Tonight was a double header and the other band was Goldray who I had been meaning to check out before I arrived. A lady dressed in a flamboyant gold outfit with her hands pressed together above her head in a prayer like pose walked past me towards the stage and I realised I had checked them out previously as you can’t forget a golden lady.

The comparison is probably lazy but they had a Zeppeliny vibe and knocked out some decent tunes. The highlight of course was the lady in gold and she fronted the band ‘frontely’ as a good front person should. They warmed me up well and whilst I don’t know any of the songs, for those that do, they played the following:

The best thing about Dethroning Of The Party Queen is, that as the second song of the set, it makes you realise Ride On My Bike is fine as an opener. If most bands had written Ride On My Bike it would have to be the closer as it would clearly be the best song in the set. Not so in Rosalie’s case as not only has she got a treasure chest of great Purson songs to choose from, she now also has a solo album of which any song could happily be added to the set.

Talking of Dethroning and a short descending intro leads us into the main hook and what a hook it is. This then takes us to a jaunty vocal approach that leads us to the big chorus. It’s a song like most on the album that as you settle into one part (the verse and chorus approach repeat) it then changes up as we get a solo and then the next verse with a wonderful piano riff underneath it. A couple more choruses follow and then a quirky outro that is as exciting as it is fun (and it’s very fun).

It doesn’t take you long notice just how good the band is and today’s mentions are for the drummer and keyboard player. The drummer Raph, previously in Purson has returned and you can see why. Powerful and yet playful he has no issue manoeuvring through songs that change more often than a model does at a catwalk show (or so I imagine). He also has a look on his face as though he is at maximum enjoyment at all times.

The keyboard player has a different kind of face. He also looks like he is enjoying himself but whilst Raph the drummer’s face is one of fun, the keyboard player’s is one verging on climax. With his mouth open and eyes closed you can only assume the music that is coming out of Lee’s fingers are reverberating so much with his being that he is also coming out of his penis. I used to get accused/complimented of having a sex face on stage but I bow to this man’s ‘sexperiority’; it was a joy to behold.

Possibly any of the songs could be mentioned but for this first show I’ll end with the rarity, Chocolate Money and one that was released post Purson existing as a band and pre Rosalie existing in the context of a band. It is a full on Beatles rocker but possibly also the poppiest that Rosalie ventures (thus far). It has a driving groove reminiscent of something off the debut Queens of the Stone Age album for the verse and then you can’t mistake the Beatles in the chorus.

Where it deviates of course is that Rosalie hardly ever settles for a simple verse chorus setup until the end of the song and so there is a breakdown in the middle that slows things down and feels a little melancholy before cranking back into the Beatlesy/QotSAy main riff with soloing over the top. It stands out from the rest of the set but in a very good way.

The only criticisms I had at this gig didn’t involve the band. The first was a man who was standing at the front with a gap for two people. I asked if he wouldn’t mind moving up slightly and he rather aggressively stated he’d been standing here since the start and that he hadn’t even bought a drink to save this spot. I replied I wasn’t asking him to move backwards but no problem I’ll just stand behind. The amazing thing was he then went off for a drink and I found myself standing there feeling as though I should save his spot even though he had just been a complete arse. I’m sure most people would have either just taken his place or moved away, not me though, I waited and let him back in. Thanks for that mate of course didn’t part his lips. If you can’t relax at a gig then when can you?

The only other criticism I had was for myself (although it turns out I am way over critical in that department). With the gig having ended I got chatting to the drummer and bought him a drink. I think this was the one that took me to very drunk and having talked to him for a fair bit/listened to him tell me about his other projects I then stumbled towards the exit and on spotting Rosalie told her how much I enjoyed the gig. I also think I then started to blab on about songs that I’d love to be added and I don’t know what else. I woke up the next morning wondering what had I been blabbering on about and hoped it hadn’t included dribbling! It turns out I was as usual when drunk just my usual happy silly self but the lesson here is if you want to ensure you don’t make a fool of yourself don’t drink, but then if you like a drink like I do, the lesson is to drink in moderation, unless like me you occasionally like to drink a lot in which case there is no lesson.

As well as waking up with a slight wondering of embarrassment however I also woke up with a huge smile on my face at just how good the gig was. It is genuine that the only criticism I could muster was not from the band. There was no song in the middle that I felt could have been skipped or any one song that towered above the rest (there is a favourite but I will save that for the last show), it was all just consistently brilliant. It gave me huge hope that booking three shows in a row was a wonderful idea and I’d know for sure tomorrow as presumably not having anyone to meet pre-gig I would not be quite so drunk (I never promise professional reviews).

1st Intermission

The coach trip from Bristol to Winchester was even more uneventful than the one from home to Bristol as the only point of ‘interest’ is that rather than go direct to Winchester it takes you to London to change and so you go back on yourself meaning the journey goes on forever and took most of the day.

Winchester itself seemed a very pretty town but as the coach took four hundred hours to get there I didn’t really get time to see much of it. The other problem was that I realised I had never received my ticket to the show. On hunting through my emails I found one of me emailing the venue to say I had paid but had not received an email of confirmation and had had no reply. I spent the next ten minutes hunting through my online bank statement for some evidence and without any luck hoped my email stating I had no email would be enough. When I arrived at the venue the lady asked for my name, found it and crossed me off the list. When absolutely nothing of interest happens between gigs I’m left with a non-story like that. I’m one step away from posting a Facebook-style picture of an empty plate with a caption ‘Had a really nice dinner’.

Winchester - The Railway Inn – 02/08

People often ask why I go and see bands multiple times and the answer is because I am extremely single. The other answer is because you stumble across venues like The Railway Inn and whilst the Fleece was a reasonably sized venue The Railway Inn seemed to be about as big as my front room (and I live in a flat). I have played gig venues bigger than this and I wrote songs no-one gave a shit about, so when you enter a room this small and realise you are going to see one of the most enticing artists you’ve heard in a long time you tend to get a little bit excited.

The first band wasn’t a band but a guy with an acoustic guitar who played some nice enough songs but as always one guy with an acoustic guitar often sounds like another guy with an acoustic guitar unless you already know their stuff.

Next up was Macho something and they also get my lazy reference of sounding Zeppeliny. Well they did for half the set, for the other half they were quite funny as having only one guitar and having broken a string had to chat for ages whilst they waited to see if they could borrow a Rosalie guitar. However instead of a new guitar arriving he was actually given a new string and then took an age to string it. The soundman joined in on the fun by playing the Countdown theme tune (for Americaland people the theme is basically a clock countdown with music) which when it ended the guitarist turned back to the mic and said, ‘you are going to have to do that again as I am still not ready’. The band finally got going  and finished with two more songs.

Rosalie and co due to the delays finally got to the stage at about 10pm and I had found the perfect viewing position. At the side of the room were a couple of seating platforms that you could stand on and that meant I had a great view over the rows in front of me. I now knew what it was like to be a tall person at a gig without the negatives of having plastic beer glasses thrown at my head as I was in no-ones eye-line.

I skipped on discussing Ride on my Bike at the last show but it really must be stated what a fantastic opening song it is. The initial riff gets you grooving from the start and then you come to the wonderfully playful lyrics and the chorus that is really catchy even though it has about a billion words crammed into it… just like a hybrid, future creature flying through an electric evening sky… The ‘beep beep’s’ are adorable and I just love the fact that as catchy as the whole song is, it has already taken you in more directions than the average band does in an entire set.

It would be very easy for me to skip past the Purson songs as I love the new album so much but when they are performed it instantly reminds me why Desire’s Magic Theatre was my album of the year a couple of years back and why I was instantly hooked on it the moment I heard the opening riff off the opening track. It is this track that is next in the review and it’s sprawling epicness was on show for all to enjoy. Like Ride On My Bike it’s hugely catchy but again has more twists and turns than a game of Snake. It has a great driving groove for the main part but then slows down to a melodic interlude before building up and we reach the end of the s…

Except we don’t and it confused a majority of people who began clapping. Looking around the audience we definitely had a lot of ‘new to Rosalie’ audience members as without meaning to stereotype, the shirt jeans combo on display meant half the pub looked a lot more Friday night at O’Neil’s rather than Friday night (r)O’ckers (God that was awful). However the couple behind me perfectly summed up why this gig was so great.

Having then ‘reclapped’ once the bass doodle part (I adore that part by the way) finished the couple turned to each other and said ‘wow that was really good’. They had been saying that at the end of every song from the start of the set. The only time they said anything other than ‘Wow, that was really good’ was when Rosalie introduced Fuck Love and they giggled and said ‘What kind of love could that be?’ but after it had finished reverted back to ‘wow that was really good’. At the end of the set they told me directly how amazing they thought the band were and said they were off to buy a CD.

I have to say this is hugely impressive stuff as, as a friend of people who play in cover bands that tour such venues as O’Neil’s, they, to get a great reaction, have to knock out Living on a Prayer or that ‘I’ve got a girlfriend who looks like a boyfriend’ song. The fact Rosalie was winning those people over her psychedelic, proggy, stonery Beatles rock is kind of mind-blowing and awesome.

Fuck Love seeing as I mentioned it is another instant classic from the new album. It is from the off dramatic and exciting with a Waits sounding intro (although I have been told by a fellow ‘Cunninghamer’ (there’s probably a better term for people who love this music) that she isn’t a fan but tough, it sounds Waitsy!) before going into the verse and then a huge dramatic chorus with Fuck Love being wailed. On a random note it is listed on my Ipod as Fuck Love [Explicit] which seems a little pointless as the warning comes after the fuck. Of course there are more twists and turns with a great prickly and then fuzzy lead section before leading back into the chorus and the wailed fuuuckkkk loovveeeee. It is as I said another fantastic song.

The next two musicians to get a mention are the hatted duo of the band, the bassist Alasdair and the guitarist Rosco. The bass player has a trademark kind of swaying bob and played flawlessly throughout contributing nicely with some backing vocals and harmonies. He also looks like he is having a great time. The guitarist who is also Rosalie’s partner (I am not sure why this is relevant but in every other review I’ve read they seem to mention it so in an attempt to look professional have added it in too) is not only a great guitarist but also quite funny. Having gone through another guitar change (they switch guitars between most songs) he quipped, ‘I think we have all learnt a lesson tonight, we need to bring less guitars and the other band need to bring more than one!’.

Again to remain professional I have to try and find a criticism and for tonight the best I can come up with is Rosalie went to hit the tuner pedal between a song and instead hit another that caused the guitar to screech for a half second. I’m afraid that is about the best I can do apart from maybe there was a little feedback here and there; overall though the sound was fantastic as was the playing. Rosalie mentioned at all the gigs how great her band were and she wasn’t blowing smoke up anyone’s arse, they really were and even more so considering the fact we were to learn at the final gig.

I had considerable less drink this evening and can confirm my state of inebriation from the night before was not the reason for my recollection of an amazing performance but simply because the performance was amazing. I was going to be gutted to see these end I could tell.

2nd Intermission

The train journey to London was so uneventful the best I can do is say I was on a train rather than a coach and had a bit more room and so most of the above that you have read has been written whilst on it.  I know…

Having reached London I bought a couple of children’s books for my two year old nephew (I mention this in case there is someone reading this who is looking for a nice guy ha) and I hooked up with my sister who was along for the ride. Again there was nothing more exciting than a few drinks and a bit of food (unlike my previous trip that included a story about me being delighted to catch some shit on my foot (hopefully the person looking for a nice guy has stopped reading before this point) that you can read as part of my last musical travelling adventures (sometimes stuff does happen worth mentioning)) so let’s get straight to the gig.

London – The Lexington – 03/08

The opening band Gu-Ru didn’t sound like Led Zeppelin which is a shame as I am going to have to use my brain and think of other reference points. I would say there was a hint of CSS, Public Service Broadcasting and Ratatat with a large amount of 80s synth film soundtracks. At points I enjoyed and at others not quite as much but seeing as my description is pretty bad I’d suggest you YouTube them and make up your own mind. My sister stated that one of the hooks sounded very much like one of my own so I can highly recommend that one!

The amazing fact we learnt tonight was that the band had only rehearsed together five times before setting out on the tour. That is ridiculous. Even if the band were playing straight 4/4 verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus songs that would be ridiculous but Rosalie tends to write songs that disappear off into a million directions. The band were impressively tight and on it before I learnt that fact but having heard that fact my mind was blown.

The most ridiculous song that showcases the amazingness of the above paragraph is the last one off the latest album A Yarn From The Wheel that can best be described (aside from in lots of other ways) as the opposite of my penis; it’s hugely impressive. My sister got a little lost in it and it is hardly surprising as it took a good ten or fifteen listens for it to truly click for me. However once it had clicked, once the path through the wilderness is made in your brain and you can get from home to the final destination, it’s sensational. It was also my favourite track every night and parts of it are always floating around in my head. It no doubt annoyed my sister as sometimes she’d be talking to me but I’d be ‘silent humming’ the renaissance sounding part in my head, or the drifting middle part or the hooky du-du-du-du-derrrrrr-du-duuhhh part. I’m still doing it now… (ps. Having listened to this song a lot of times on CD I’ve noticed towards the end Rosalie says something and then ‘I don’t want to do it anymore’ presumably because it has been going on for so long! It’s barely audible but now I’ve given you something extra to listen out for).

The set was, as with the previous shows going over wonderfully but it seemed to kick up another notch from Nobody Hears onwards. This song has a great piano intro followed by a melodic and beautiful acoustic guitar hook. It’s probably easy to be corny when writing a song about a homeless person (even with good sentiment) but Rosalie avoids this with a thoughtful backstory and some of my favourite lyrics

Back when his mother died

Their home with dutiful pride he kept just so

But one thing wasn’t right

The great mountain of white things he ignored

Piled high by the door

The week went by and the letterbox did cry

‘Oh I can’t eat any more’

When the men burst in, even over the din

He thought that he heard the avalanche

Of envelopes laugh ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

It is obvious to anyone that Rosalie is a very talented guitar player and composer, the songs speak for themselves but I think what I appreciated more than anything else live was just what a good voice she has. It’s easy to forget with everything she does musically that the voice is a key and great part of the overall sound and if she (and I am not suggesting she should) stripped away all the clever and interesting musical composition could easily carry a song with just her voice alone.

My sister commented on just how easily she commanded the stage and effortlessly exuded confidence without it ever coming across as arrogant. Again this is a high compliment as I believe I read somewhere that Rosalie was a little nervous about hitting the stage again after quite a long break but if she ever was nervous at the shows I attended it was not noticeable.

I have (for balance) added a criticism at each previous show and was really fishing to find them but I’m just giving up for this last one. I have been really fortunate in the music I have and will be seeing this year. I had Nick Cave in New Zealand in January, Regina Spektor doing some very special shows on Broadway in June, in September I am off to see Metallica play with the San Francisco Orchestra in San Francisco and I have Machine Head reuniting their original line-up to play their classic Burn My Eyes all the way though in November.

It would be easy therefore to write off these three little pub gigs in the middle but on the strength of these performances you just can’t. Of course I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy them based purely on the Purson material but then when the new album hit and turned out to be THAT good and a band that performed THAT well, well these gigs just couldn’t be faulted. There are of course venues and places that add to the magic of a performance but give any venue a great sounding band backed by a wonderful catalogue and you as a listener will be transported to that magical place no matter what.

Music from when I really discovered it around fourteen has at its best always allowed me to escape from the world around me and ever since I have always been chasing that release. The Regina concerts were magical and truly took me into that other dimension, away from the general humdrum of life and Rosalie really wasn’t that far behind. If you can do that in a small bar in Winchester with an audience half-filled with regular Saturday night punters you can do that fucking anywhere. Rosalie has stated she has some very special things around the corner and I can only believe her. If this is the start then the next steps can only be great.

Rosalie ended the show (after the only encore of the three shows I attended although the encore song was just the song she played anyway without the encore (some people care about this stuff so I’ve added it in)) and said that she really wished it wasn’t over and I could only agree. Yes I’d seen three nights on the trot but I wouldn’t have argued with twice or three times that many. I’ve focused on a few songs in this piece but it could have been any of the others too. There were no dips and really nothing to criticise.

The night ended with a long trip back to the South coast (followed by a day of camping which is where you can see my moany side if you so wish in an upcoming Siary) but also contained a train full of rainbows and glitter pouring out into Victoria station returning from Pride. This image is perfectly suited to enable me to end this review as cornily as possible and summed up my last three nights; a trio of glittery, multi-coloured musical wonderfulness. If she comes to your town, go see, Rosalie! These shows were as good as any other I have and will see this year and you will do yourselves no favours if you do not check her out.

Here is the setlist from Bristol but the same each night:

Ps. I was considering doing an album review but then my good friend (well someone I know on the internet who does videos) put this one out and as I couldn’t do any better didn’t. Below is his fantastic video and if you don’t know his work I’d suggest you check out the many others he has done as well.