Gig Review by Kirsty Hillyer with Photography by Steve Kilmister

Chuck Ragan

Tucked away, so far from the merch, in the Temple Room of the Institute you would have found me huddling into myself for warmth.

Thankfully our opener, Dutch singer songwriter, Tim Vantol fits the bill perfectly. Earnest whilst remaining polite and assertive; Tim cajoles the growing crowd into singing along, and cheering despite the misery the cold is inducing.

Chuck Ragan

Playing solo acoustic tonight, my pondering at his material with a full band seems to be accurate as he’ll be touring the UK with one in tow soon.

Chuck Ragan

An honest and insightful writer with lines such as ‘It doesn’t take much of an effort to fuck it up once more’ he wins me over. There is a guttural, gruff quality to his voice as he projects into the room without the aid of the mic, leaving goosebumps as a reminder. His set was the highlight of the night. I urge you to check him out when he’s next in town.

Skinny Lister

Skinny ListerSkinny Lister

Sadly the good buzz I felt in readiness for Chuck Ragan and the Camaraderie was soon quashed by, Xtra Mile signing and main support, Skinny Lister. The promise upon seeing a double bass on stage was dashed at the rising of an acordion and the number of mics; leaving me fearful of folk punksters akin to Flogging Molly. The latter just aren’t for me, and neither are Skinny Lister. As they walk on stage with an 80s Laura Ashley dress wearing woman, raising a flagon above her head, the pretentious level hits me hard. Sea shanty chanting, London living, northerners with fist pumping stompiness that sees it reciprocated by a cluster of 5 in the crowd, who are clearly fans. The rest of the room felt underwowed by their juvenille lyrics, samey harmonies and raucous, drunken, persona reserved for a 3am set in an irish pub. A persona further emphasised when a crowd shot is taken and the flagon passed forward.  The thought of the germs is giving me hives even now.

Skinny Lister

Skinny Lister

Whilst I have suffered many a support I’ve not enjoyed, never have I endured one that has made me want to leave before the headliners make it on stage. Too folk for me and even the folkiest of my friends.

Chuck RaganChuck Ragan

As changoever is underway the lack of double bass on stage sees my heart sink. Longstanding Camaraderie member Joe Ginsbourg is always at his best with one in hand and tonight he plays a lowly bass guitar in comparison. Jon Gaunt is in tow with his mean fiddle playing, Todd Beene on pedal steel guitar and HWM drummer George Rebelo, leading the percussion. There is no denying the talent of these men and the vocal talent of the beardy Chuck as they rattle through track after track.

Chuck Ragan

Sadly the double bass isnt the only thing missing for me tonight. As its the 5th time I’m seeing Chuck outside of HWM, I can’t tell if its the sound, the atmosphere, the buzzkill from Skinny Lister or whether my love affair for his voice has moved on. I may be too obsessed with the similar sounding, yet added drawl provided by Red City Radio.

Chuck Ragan

Opening with ‘Something May Catch Fire’ off his new album ‘Till Midnight’ nearly half the set follows suit.

I fear I like my Chuck more morose than the offerings presented with this new album.  A Cory Brannan cover provides a nice nod to the Chuck curated Revival Tour ensembles, which he leads with other like minded musicians. This is possibly where my sticking point lies. I want the rousing sing-a-long of Revival and with omissions of The Trench and Geraldine, I leave feeling disappointed.

Chuck Ragan

Its always easier to be critical, sadly, than to say something nice. I can’t knock the performance tonight and as the set drew to a close, proceedings wouldn’t have been complete without ‘The Boat’.

Chuck Ragan

Having seen some half filled Revival tours in Birmingham, I am pleased to see such a resounding turnout. If your a fan of the new album then this tour is certainly a treat. I think I need a bit longer to percolate with it, but as ever its always a pleasure to listen to these talented bunch of men.

Chuck Ragan

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