For the second night of an extensive schedule of UK, European and worldwide dates over the next couple of months, Nick Mulvey brought his show to Exeter, showcasing songs from his second album Wake Up Now.
As he promised when we chatted with him recently, the full band he worked with on recording the album transfers brilliantly to the live stage. For this show at Exeter Uni’s Student Union venue, the small, atmospheric space was packed out with a crowd drawn from across an incredibly wide age range, underlining the broad appeal of Mulvey’s unique sound.
Often categorised as folk, such a label doesn’t really tell the full story of this artist. Mulvey’s time spent living in Cuba a few years ago significantly impacted his creative leanings, with a somewhat exotic lilt to his phenomenal guitar craft. Right across his repertoire, there are hints of folk, sure, but there is also a real air of world music, along with touches of radio-friendly pop thrown in for good measure.
Among the set highlights were Unconditional, Myela and Imogen from the new album, while old favourite Fever To The Form, from his 2014 debut album First Mind, got the kind of enthusiastic reaction you would expect for what is one of his signature tunes. But he sent everyone home bouncing with Mountain To Move, the upbeat track that features the lyric from which the album Wake Up Now takes its name.
What Mulvey is particularly good at is conveying an on-stage demeanour that is as soothing, approachable and reassuring as his faultless vocal tone. That is one aspect of a winning combination – along with his meaningful songs of substance and highly accomplished musicianship – that sets him apart as one of the most creative contemporary talents around.
For a band that has been around in one form or another for over 20 years, the Hot 8 Brass Band remain something of a best kept secret for many. Their current tour of the UK is in support of new album On The Spot and although interest has been piqued by last month’s performance at Glastonbury, there’s still much to discover about their unique blend of hip-hop, funk and jazz all wrapped up in the marching band style so closely associated with their hometown of New Orleans.
The backbone of the whole show is band leader Bennie Pete, whose sousaphone is not only a striking visual aspect to the band, but provides the low bassline on which the rest of the sound is built. Frontman and trumpet player Alvarez Huntley is the on-stage spokesman for the group, leading the crowd into as much audience participation as he can by urging them to wave their arms and sing along – but only singing when he says so!
No-one was going to argue with him, such was the positivity and infectious energy in the room. In fact, it’s hard to know how they manage to keep the whole thing going as one seamless thread for the duration of their 90 minute set, with virtually no breaks between songs. The music itself was supercharged throughout, with a mixture of their own material as well as a host of covers all given the ‘Hot 8’ treatment. Among the best of these were the Snoop Dogg track What’s My Name and the Marvin Gaye standard Sexual Healing.
It’s hard to think of a more unique act on the circuit right now. If you have an opportunity to catch them at one of their remaining festival dates this year (including Truck Festival in Oxfordshire and Tramlines in Sheffield) then best make them a priority.
Currently on the road is the formidable Turin Brakes. Ahead of their shows at Norwich Open and Exeter’s Phoenix, we wanted to share this live version of a track that we’ve been loving from their new album Lost Property.
Keep Me Around is an infectious and beautifully-crafted song and this live performance for BBC Radio Scotland gives a hint of the slick show the band puts on.
You can catch the band at Norwich on Sunday 21 February (buy tickets), Exeter on Thursday 25 February (buy tickets) or visit the band’s website for full listings of the remaining dates on their increasingly sold out tour!
Turin Brakes – Keep Me Around (live)