Fyfe Dangerfield * * * *
at the Glee Club
Reviewed by Terry Grimley
Launching the first of two solo shows which rounded off a momentous year for his band Guillemots, Birmingham-born frontman Fyfe Dangerfield was at pains to say how nervous he was.
But the man is obviously a born worrier: his talent flooded the space left by his absent colleagues, his voice filling this intimate venue with impressive power and range.
It was also apparent that behind the electronic gadgetry of Guillemots lies a classically-trained pianist with an exquisite touch and a formidable range of tonal colour.
His guitar playing's not bad, either. Only the harmonica, coupled with the piano on Woody Brown River with the aid of a Bob Dylan harness, perhaps needs a bit more work.
As piano-based songwriters tend to, he slowed down familiar hits like Trains to Brazil and We're Here, as though intent on stretching the structure to find its breaking point. The darker recesses of his back catalogue remained largely untouched (we nearly heard one of the songs he wrote in the fire escape of the Royal Festival Hall while working there as a steward, but he lost patience with tuning the guitar), but the number of new songs was a surprise.
There were half a dozen or so, including a particularly quiet and intimate number with finger-picked guitar called Don't Be Shy, completed only a few days earlier.
Though there was one up-tempo screamer called Mr Priest, most of the new ones continued the confessional mood, suggesting an expanding canvas and emotional range. The final one, sounding like a contender to close Guillemots' next album, stretched to an epic nine minutes. The encore brought a seasonal rarity with In the Bleak Midwinter, complete with chiming bells courtesy of the upright piano's exposed strings.
Earlier Fyfe's brother Al, performing as his alter ego Godfrey Salter, gave a brisk performance of poetry celebrating, among other things, the charm of the Outer Circle bus. It's interesting to note how both siblings have raised shambolic presentation, with mislaid props and bits of paper, to an art form.
There was also an enjoyable set from singer-songwriter Richard Burke whose wry songs are enhanced by his distinctive voice and guitar playing, and a winning stage manner. And what an excellent platform the Glee Club and its attentive audience give to performers.