Review and Photography by John Bentley

Even if he wasn’t a great wordsmith, tunesmith, singer, musician and performer, out of curiosity you’d have to go and see an act with the name King Creosote. Mr Creosote (no, not the character in the Monty Python film) is actually Kenny Anderson, resident of Fife. Staunchly independent, he has released truckloads of recordings and founded the Fence record label in 1995. One of his most successful albums, nominated for a Mercury Prize in 2011, has been ‘Diamond Mine’, his collaboration with electronica musician Jon Hopkins. However, he has many albums very worthy of investigation, including the most recent, 2016’s ‘Astronaut Meets Appleman’.

King Creosote at Trades Club Hebden Bridge

Support tonight comes from locally-based singer-songwriter Aron Harper-Robinson. As the first song comes to a quiet and slightly uncertain end, Aron explains that his contemplative songs are intended to be physically and thematically linked, without gaps. He sings a semi-spoken narrative, slightly reminiscent of Lou Reed at times (but without the accent).  The audience warm to his honest and straightforward approach and he is clearly really enjoying himself by the time his short set comes to an end. He has one EP, ‘Back to the Great Lakes’, to his name, but after the gig he tells me he is working on songs that will be his first album, one which will reflect life in the local area.

Aron Harper Robinson at Trades Club Hebden Bridge

On the current tour, King Creosote / Kenny Anderson is performing with a full band, five excellent musicians who provide electric guitar, bass, drums, violin and keyboard accompaniment. King Creosote has been on my list of bands to see for quite a while, mainly as a result of hearing his excellent 2005 album ‘KC Rules OK’ some time ago. Live he more than fulfils musical expectations and has a compelling stage presence. 

The band opens with the wonderfully hypnotic ‘You Just Want’, the first track on ‘Astronaut Meets Appleman’. With its dense drifting instrumental core, this track really needs the full band treatment, particularly Hannah Fisher’s sumptuous violin. The tempo increases for the next few numbers, particularly on ‘Largs’, as Kenny invites us to accompany him for a knees-up (including great country-style fiddling from Hannah) at the Scottish seaside town of that name. However, he admits he hasn’t been there. ‘From Scotland With Love’ is the song’s parent album and unsurprisingly there is a strong flavour of Scottish life running through much of KC’s work.

King Creosote at Trades Club Hebden Bridge

King Creosote at Trades Club Hebden Bridge

Changing to a slower pace and a more contemplative mood, ‘Bats in the Attic’ is a fan favourite from the ‘Diamond Mine’ album. The song opens with some gorgeous piano chords and gives us an opportunity to hear Kenny’s wonderful lilting voice and vocal range. His voice is really unique, singing in a distinct Scottish accent and clearly enunciating his carefully crafted words. ‘Betelguese’ from the latest album follows in the same vein and demonstrates Kenny’s melodic compositional abilities. The set lasts nearly two hours and includes a diverse batch of songs from his lengthy career.

As the show goes on the witty banter between songs intensifies. His asides are often surreal and seem to be completely irrelevant to the songs or the situation, but are nevertheless hilarious and even have the band in stitches. It’s important to live in a town with a good barber, the recently shorn singer observes. Songs are like greenflies, they come around into your setlist then drop out again when the ladybird arrives. Then there is the continuing wager with the audience about whether the blister on his thumb will burst before the gig ends (it doesn’t).

King Creosote at Trades Club Hebden Bridge

The hall is sold out and there are a lot of hard-core fans here. As the bonhomie builds up in the sweaty atmosphere, Kenny mentions two fans who had been to his gig in Clitheroe telling him that if they’d known he was on at the Trades Club they wouldn’t have bothered travelling to Clitheroe. As ‘compensation’ they’d asked if he would perform ‘Ankle Shackles’. With mock indignation that they felt they had unnecessarily paid to see him twice, Kenny calls the couple up on the stage and sings the song. The penalty is that the lady has to hold up Kenny’s hastily written sheet of lyrics to prompt him. Everyone enters into the spirit of the moment and the couple leave the stage to great applause.

We finish the main set with a mock rock ‘n’ roll presentation of ‘Third Swan’ which KC describes as a big hit, in Latvia at least. How to deal with the predicable routine of encores seems to be an increasing problem for bands, with some refusing to indulge in them at all. KC’s answer is to say goodbye and to then duck down behind the instruments while the audience applause. You then jump up and get on with it.

King Creosote at Trades Club Hebden Bridge

King Creosote at Trades Club Hebden Bridge

The encore is a bit of a round-up of some more career highlights, including ‘Bubble’ (another song from ‘Diamond Mine’) and ‘Come Back and Stay’ / ‘Not One Bit Ashamed’. Lastly there is the rousing ‘Pauper’s Dough’, a song of hope for a better future for a tenement dweller: “We’ll fight for what is right and we’ll strike for what is ours and I want better for my boy. You’ve got to rise above the gutter you are inside”. We leave on a real high.

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