Rachel told me she’s having a contest over the course of this year; will I take her out more times than I go and see Gaz Brookfield? This being the third time I’ve seen The West Country’s finest potty-mouthed, have-guitar-will-travel, punk rock attitude acoustic troubadour in the year of 2013, this draws Gaz level with nights out with Rach; but as I’m taking her along tonight to see Gaz, does this count as No. 4 with her? As Captain Redbeard Rum once said, “opinion is divided, m’lud!”
Well, enough babble. Rach’s mum babysat and we headed off up the hill, hitting the obscenely deserted venue about 8.15. Dammit, Swindon, it’s Thursday night and early in the month; get out and support one of your own! Particularly when he’s as profusely talented as Mr. Brookfield is! Ran into Gaz in the bar early doors for a quick chat on this issue, to which he magnanimously remarked, “it’s quality that counts, not quantity!” Damn right, we’re here, after all!
Took a wander down to the back room venue to see opener Benji Clement. Accompanied by a low-key band this time, with bass and percussion to flesh out his sparse, bluesy-jazz sound, he again highlighted an eclectic selection of covers (a melange of “Moondance” and “Summertime”, some Hendrix, a challenging Al Green number and some Jungle Book!), an impressively smooth, occasionally scat-rap-improv vocal style and a positive attitude despite the tiny crowd. Nice work, young man. Back to the bar for a sit-down, but only briefly, as the between-act turnaround was impressively swift, allaying a tired Rachel’s concerns that this would be a late one. So Joshua Caole, a more unkempt, bearded young chap with the looks of an “LA Woman”-era Jim Morrison, a very American-sounding voice somewhere between Hobotalk and a nasal Michael Stipe, and an engagingly vacant line in between-song patter, entertained with some more Americana-tinged acoustic tomfoolery. I liked the idea of a murder suicide ballad set in the Forest Of Dean, and his stories of living in his car and needing to borrow cables from his mother-in-law (!) for this gig brought chuckles from the finally-growing crowd.
Again, the turnaround was quick, so Gaz took the stage a shade after 10, accompanied by his violinist partner-in-crime Ben Wain. This being only the second gig back for Gaz after a nasty bout of laryngitis which sidelined him awhile, he was allegedly taking it easy, but this certainly didn’t show with as committed and energetic a performance as ever, lapped up by this small but equally tuned-in and very knowledgeable hometown crowd. “Limelight”, second number in, was dismissed as, “a lie,” by Gaz, “as I’m on last, and also because this next number is about going on the road with my favourite band,” introducing the increasingly familiar Men They Couldn’t Hang-like travelogue of “Land Pirate’s Life”. The loud “arrrr”s at the end of “SN1” were met with an, “every time!” from an impressed Gaz, and I appreciated the way he tuned a lovely “Glass Half Empty” right back to a hushed whisper, to expose – and shut up! – a couple of noisy punters. Style.
“Towns”, a newie relating Gaz’ origins, revealed much of the man lyrically, with a passionate performance and the announcement that this might be the next album’s title track, underlining how important his heritage is to him. Live faves “Diet Of Banality” (which saw a breakdancing session from a punter, Gaz remarking, “that’s not going to be the dance routine!”) a rousing singalong “Under The Table” and an always brilliant “Be The Bigger Man” were a marvellous one-two-three punch, before another rousing singalong “West Country Song” rounded off another splendid evening. Taking it easy? Easing his way back? No way, tonight’s performance was as passionate, committed and thoroughly entertaining as ever, Gaz seamlessly returning to the stage like a true performer born.
And, given how much Rach enjoyed the gig as well, I’m counting this as 2013 night out No. 4 with her!