Just before Vic Allen's afternoon EP launch at The Green Note, #TEAMw21 did suggest to Vic that her future may well be fronting a band to play her songs, so it did bring a little joy into our hearts to see the stage set for a full band on entering the Water Rats for the launch of her debut album "Some Place I'd Rather Be".
Despite being visited with a bout of flu in the run up to the gig and with also a train strike due to commence later that night, nothing was going to dampen Vic's enthusiasm and she was to be found out front meeting and greeting pretty much up to the start of her set.
The band duly took to the stage without her kicking off the drumbeat, bass and keys for the intro to "Enough", Vic would later take to the stage with a quick wave to the crowd. It was a joy to hear "Enough" in a live environment with a full band, who were also able to apply the additional backing vocals to give it an extra degree of oomph. For much of the opening few songs Vic could barely suppress the urge to break out into a huge smile. As the band launched into "Barcelona" one of her live favourites now given a home on the new album, it was interesting to see how Vic quickly adapted to the role of front person of a band. looking relaxed and totally at home.
Some songs undoubtedly worked better than others "I Can" was an unqualified success with excellent quitar work and crisp unfussy drumming, giving something of a dreamy effect. One song that had been almost overlooked on its release was "Confetti" which was now given its day in the sun with the assistance of a great organ and piano sound along with atmospheric cymbal playing and Vic's poignant "Please don't fall in love".
Able to adapt their sound perfectly for each song, "Pictures Of Us" saw Vic's band gradually building up the volume as required. There are certain songs that it seems that everybody knows - I'm not sure i'd have placed The Goo Goo Dolls "Iris" into that category, yet it seemed that everyone was mouthing along. For the hard core fans there was a trip down memory lane for "Without You Here" from "The Missing Piece" EP - a reminder to all of how rich Vic's back catalogue is even if she did express a desire to be able to re record it - tonight it was magnificent - aided once again by some marvellous guitar work.
For the next section, the band left the stage leaving Vic in familiar territory playing solo - interestingly she opted to start this set of songs with "Ghost Town" which on the album is rich in electronica - and sounded so much more personal in this solo presentation - really takiing on the feeling of loneliness echoed in the lyrics - it was enough to hush The Water Rats who hung on every word. The new album may be out however Vic has plenty of material still yet to be recorded - and is always highly creative - "Change My Mind" - a new song about anxiety, gave testament to Vic's ever widening inspirations and was highly impressive and melodic on first listen with seemingly a host of quotable lines.
Always pushing herself - "Different Things" marked Vic's stage debut on piano, admitting to feeling conscious playing in front of people having only learnt piano during Lockdown. There was no need to have been concerned - this was excellent and perhaps concentrating so much on playing the piano freed Vics vocals to give one of the best performances of the night.
The band returned for "Talk" and then the drum intro into "Healing" announced one of the extra special moments of the night - one of Vic's most wonderful melodies - here accentuated with an organ sound.
Another trip to the Vic Allen vaults brought out "Bittersweet" which seemed positively gentle compared to the song that followed "Drive Thru" where the band were a last fully unleashed to truly make some noise. Some singers can tend to be drowned out in these circumstances but as earlier, Vic looked relaxed, totally at ease and never overshadowed.
The main set would close with "Borrowed Time", one of the albums other unreleased songs, the band utilised to full effect, really bringing the song to life in this format. There could naturally only be one song for the encore - "Suitcase" - it closed the evening much as it closes the album - Vic's finest recording to date. Tonight complete with drummer on tambourine, and once again excellent keyboard work made this a fine way to send us off into the night.
This was a wonderful album launch and bearing in mind that this was a band debut that will only get better given more time to play together and that Vic will equally only sound even better when not overcoming the after effects of flu - it would be great to be able to see The Vic Allen Band grace a festival or two throughout the summer - highly entertaining!!