Never Fade Sessions with Ward Thomas, Jamie Yost & Melanie Baker - The Social
The Social to say the least is an unusual venue to watch music, the entrance is down a narrow staircase that eventually leads to the venue. As you enter there is a tiny stage in front of the sound desk which is decorated with fairy lights. Seating is at a premium, the first 15 or so people take the chairs and tables in a small area in front of the stage. To their right are a selection of booth like tables each with a reserved sign on them, each person that enters smiles thinking they have landed a prime seat only to be dismayed as they get closer. The side wall of the venue has little alcoves that sit about 5 or more people, the rest of the crowd are in for a long stand - or at least that's the way it seemed however a prompt start, swift changeovers and the headliners coming on third instead of fourth changed all that.
Melanie Baker from Cumbria opened the evening making her London debut, standing tall, playing guitar, Her first few songs "365 Days" and "Love Blind" were well received but were folky musings that were an appetiser for what was to come. Her final song on guitar "What If's" was much more accessible and from then on there was no turning back. Switching from guitar to keyboard seemed to put Melanie much more at ease and her stand up style of playing suited the venue. Her first piano song "False Fantasies" showed almost a completely different vocal style and a much more direct style of writing, as it told of two lovers driven by lust rather than love and comes with the realisation that "the space in your bed was never meant for me" Melanie carried on with a new song "Dancing With Strangers" even smiling while an ice shaker interrupted her mid flow. She seemed taken aback with a silent attentive audience and said this was not what she was used to, Her final song "Dreamer" completed a trio of successful keyboard based songs and marked her as someone to watch out for.
The next artist was Plymouth based Jamie Yost who opened with an atmospheric song "Aurora", which was followed by "Fury" a song that sounded big and in need of a band, and Jamie was later to say that he did normally play the song with a band and that playing solo again was slightly nerve wracking. A couple of songs really stood out "Stay" also on his "Aurora" EP and "Riddle" which was described as something different and had a touch of Free about it in a white bluesy way.
Ward Thomas are about to enter Festival season and this show seemed to be an opportunity to road test some new songs. The set list was exclusively all non recorded songs apart from the Years & Years cover "Shine" which featured on the Cartwheels tour and the "A Shorter Story" EP. So with the stage able to fit a keyboard, an acoustic guitar and 2 microphones, it meant that drummer Dave on cajon was slightly hidden. They were to rattle off the new material, with Catherine looking exceptionally like a livewire without a trusty guitar to steady her!
So do the new songs give any indication of what is to come on album three,? Well considering the stripped back setting in which we heard them probably not, but for the record, here's a rough guide to what we heard.
"Same Love" - written in Nashville, but don't expect anything too country, it's a high tempo pop song, probably closer to "Shine".
"It's Not Just Me" was first previewed at last years Christmas shows and comes with a piano riff I suspect we may be humming throughout the summer, even at this early stage seems a contender to be a single some point. It positively bounces along and has a chorus that immediately grabs you as well as the aforementioned piano riff.
"One More Goodbye" is something new to the Ward Thomas catalogue, the verse sounding very much like an soul song, while the chorus is a full on, double barrelled assault from Catherine and Lizzie, Quite possibly another single contender
"No Filter "about"the world we're living in today", opens to a slow piano, and features a big opening note from Lizzie into the chorus, it has a curious staccato delivery at one point and closes with a big note for Lizzie that will need to be hit each night on tour.
"Lie Like Me" was an intriguing song as there was a palpable pause between the word "Lie" and "Like Me" which could completely alter the meaning of the song. It was fairly fast paced song that comes with a sudden end and first impressions were pretty good.
So it was short and sweet however it was nice to see them again in a small venue relaxed and in good humour and good to know that the body of work for a third album is coming together..