Sam Lewis / Bonnie Bishop - The Green Note
A short but highly entertaining set at The Long Road was enough to entice us back to see Sam Lewis again. that set us on a wonderful journey through his back catalogue which was highly rewarding and among the general pre show chit chat the words "Long Road" were clearly audible more than once so it seemed as though a few members of the audience were on a similar adventure.
Not all though, as sat next to your reporter was someone who had specifically come to see the support for the night in the shape of Bonnie Bishop. Pre show research had indicated that her set might well be something special and her short but sweet set was indeed to prove something of a treat. Taking to the stage with no introduction, in her boots and highly distinctive woolly hat. there was no need for the usual Green Note speech about it being a listening venue, everybody was all ears as to what was about to unfold.
Opening with the gentlest of guitar strumming, and a melodic "ooohing", Bonnie commenced with "Love Revolution", her rich breathy voice immediately captured the attention of all gathered. Midway through her guitar playing became louder as she performed the "March On ..." section of the song. Following the track listing of her album "The Walk", the next song was "Keep On Moving" another tune intensely delivered, though played with a smile as she delivers a number of truths almost like a preacher "Life is a long road", ending the song with a celebration of English Sunday dinners and the effect on the "zipper on her pants"!!
The previous song may have ended on a light note, but the next song "The Walk" had something of a feeling of foreboding from the very start, and Bonnie's intro about the song becoming special to her only heightened the tension. The verses, slow with a brooding feel yet delivered with a tender vocal that developed into almost a gospel song, such was the atmosphere created - magnificent. The mood remained deathly hushed for a "serious love song" in the shape of "Things I Know", Bonnie's guitar gently accompanying the most heartfelt of vocals. In something of a change of pace, the short but perfectly formed set closed with "Every Happiness Under The Sun". much more uptempo and with a bluesy vocal this was a thrilling start to the night.
At Long Road, Sam Lewis had been with a band, tonight he may have been solo but many of the same talents were on display, a wry often self deprecating sense of humour matched to a superior level of songwriting. As with Bonnie, Sam took to the the stage without any introduction, just a temporary raising of volume on the PA and then a lowering of the lights to announce proceedings were about to start - "like a good transition!" as Sam would note.
Sam cuts a striking picture, a tall lean figure, with an implausibly fulsome moustache, and immediately kicked things off with "Everything's Going To Be Different" one of a clutch of new songs from his new 19 track solo album called "Solo" which also sees songs previously recorded as band versions performed solo.
With a wry line in humour "Waiting On You" is introduced as "Waiting for a room mate to move out". An early singalong comes along with "What Does It Mean?", with Sam's vocals displaying a soulful quality over a gently played guitar. Only Sam would credit the Green Note as reassuring him that he doesn't have claustrophobia, but it comes from a position of love, as he knows he is loved by the Sold Out sign outside. The mood is always liable to change, so from giving an outing to a new gentle love song with a working title "Watch The Sun", in total contrast came "Neighbours" full of pointed observations about his fellow residents, Sam's ability to sketch people in one or two lines is quite impeccable and exquisitely done.
From musings about Brexit, and the perils of Sat navs, he introduces a song as" probably not being worth it" and then lays down a truly beautiful "Accidental Harmony", the room held so quiet that the gentlest squeak of a chair can be heard and then followed it with another string of heartbreaking tunes "In My Dreams" his first attempt at a Nashville tune, and another new tune "The Light" was achingly beautiful, gently delivered,
Sam's introduction to a song written for his sisters wedding is typically underplayed before he plays "Nothing Could Break Us Apart", and all but has the Green Note in the palm of his hand. It became a case of song after beautiful song, "I'm A River", was simply full of beautiful lines like "I'm a river full of heartache that you'll never swim", while "Virginia Avenue" once again painted vivid pictures with the barest minimum of words.
After a little bit of light hearted audience banter, Sam's ability to effortlessly move from humour to pathos was once again displayed with "Never Again", the ability to change the mood at the drop of hat was simply masterly. As a bonus there was a chance for Bonnie Bishop to return for a duet on Guy Clark's "Anyhow I Love You". A final song "3-4 Time" then brought a quite wonderful evening to a close