Second time already this year I’ve seen Gaz Brookfield and eighth time overall, but I’m nowhere near getting tired of being entertained by this passionate and committed performer, who effortlessly blends punk rock sensibility and attitude to an acoustic delivery, and an innate feel for catchy hookery and clever, pointed wordsmithery. That said, I’m still not sure I’ve yet been to a definitive Gaz gig, one where the audience reaction is as charged and enthusiastic as the man’s performance itself. Maybe this Friday night up the Vic will deliver such a gig. Let’s see...
Hit the already impressively busy Vic pub back-room venue about 8.30, in time to catch a plethora of support acts. First up, Benji, a smooth and soulful vocalist with an impressive octave-straddling voice, drawing from a smattering of eclectic covers (Jimi Hendrix’ “Crosstown Traffic” rubbing shoulders with The Jungle Book’s “I Wanna Be Like You”!) and some well-structured laid-back originals. Talented and clearly enjoying himself up there, this was a fine opening set. Next, a young bloke called Jimmy Moore then played a more knockabout acoustic set, dropping in a bit of rap and Gaz-like guitar percussion into his more upbeat, in-your-face and occasionally anthemic set. Not bad either, and I was kindly disposed to both of them as they actually played their instruments, rather than backing them through tape loops like some recent support acts.
I caught up briefly with Gaz before main support Julesbury, mentioning my thoughts on not yet having experienced a “definitive” Gaz gig. With a by-now full crowd, tonight looked promising... Julesbury themselves were a two-piece with a blonde vocalist, who unfortunately reverted to the dreaded tape loops to augment her harmonising. More trad-folk, they weren’t my cup of Steeleye Span, so I took a breather, returning to take a stage-front spot while Gaz set up.
Gaz and violinist Ben Wain took the stage at 10.15 - this was originally intended to be a full band performance, but 2 of Gaz’ band allegedly had other commitments, which either fell through or were actually for different nights, prompting Gaz to subsequently dedicate “Tell It To The Beer” tonight to, “the most talented but flakiest bunch of b***ards I know!”. Opening with “SN1”, for his father in law’s birthday, Gaz’ performance was superbly overt and committed from the outset, and this was met in kind with some loud and parochial “ooo-ar”s from this thankfully enthusiastic crowd. A chat about Swindon needing a “Swindonian Way” preceded a lovely “Frank And Sam”, Ben’s virtuoso fiddling already dovetailing in perfectly with Gaz’ acoustic guitar bashing and dextruous guitar percussion. A mellower set mid-section ensued, a touching, almost love-song “Glass Half Empty” a highlight, before a more upbeat “Limelight” was preceded by an explanation of how, since the Levellers had taken Gaz on tour, the 3rd verse was now a “dirty pack of lies”! This ignited the crowd, and was followed by newie “Land Pirate’s Life”, detailing said Levellers tour (“the tour I thought I’d never get,” according to Gaz) and recalling The Men they Couldn’t Hang’s excellent “Going Back To Coventry”.
“Drinking song,” “Under The Table” got a rousing singalong, before set highlight “Be The Bigger Man”, Gaz’ venomous delivery being diffused by his reaction to Ben’s brilliant violin sawing during a lengthy middle eight, which got a deserved ovation and a tribute from Gaz (“Ben Wain; making me sound good since 2011!”). “Thin” and, “ill conceived Christmas single,” (Gaz words, not mine!) “Diet Of Banality” were both mass singalongs to end the set, although a thunderous ovation saw him dragged back for a final “West Country Song” to end proceedings, Gaz leaving the stage to tour through the massed singing front rows in an all-inclusive, elongated finale.
Breathless, brilliant stuff from a born performer. Quick compliments and signed set-list later, I hit the road, having finally experienced a “definitive” Gaz Brookfield gig!