Tag Archives: Kings Place

King Place – performance venue

Albion Christmas Band at Kings Place 16/12/14

Although there have been many, many different versions of folk rock stalwarts The Albion Band over the decades, its seasonal variation The Albion Christmas Band is now into its sixteenth annual tour with the same line-up. This could be due to the respective personnel (Ashley Hutchings, Simon Nicol, Kellie While and Simon Care) getting fifty out of every fifty-two weeks off from one another every year, joked Nicol. They produce a simple but very effective sound based on electric bass, acoustic guitars, melodeon and percussion with vocals shared between the four.

I’ll be upfront that my attachment to religion is somewhere at the Richard Dawkins end of the scale. But just as you don’t need to believe in wizards to enjoy prog rock, you don’t need to believe in Jesus to enjoy a few Christmas songs and carols. This is especially true if they are played and sung as well as they are by the Albion Christmas Band. We get to some classic carols later but one of the early songs tonight is The King. The “king” in this case is not Jesus but rather the wren, the song being based on the winter old custom where a wren was placed in a garlanded box and taken door to door.

As well as his founding role in Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and The Albion Band, Hutchings is also acclaimed for his album Morris On. And we get a selection of pounding Border Morris tunes tonight which, unlike its Oxfordshire counterpart with its focus on spring, the variety along the Welsh borders always had strong associations with winter festivities. Mad World is a song by 80s synth-pop act Tears for Fears and for a while was constantly on the juke box in the refectory at my sixth form in Preston. It was then given a bleak but very effective stripped down makeover in 2003 and became a surprise Christmas number 1. And now The Albions have given it the folk treatment.  Beautifully sung by While it was one of the real highlights of the evening, even though its connections to Christmas are tenuous to say the least.

Part of the band’s set is usually given over to Christmas readings of one sort or another. These have included historical excerpts describing a variety of Victorian Christmases and big family celebrations in rural village inns. Tonight Nicol got to do a modern take on the nativity. It all got a bit passé and UKIP-y (in a “they’ve-banned-Christmas –political-correctness-gone-mad sort of way) and seemed a not particularly funny and un-necessary diversion from the Albion Band’s uplifting brand of Christmas magic. The same could not be said of Christmas 1914, a song written by Mike Harding which is a poignant and moving commemoration of the famous Christmas truce, told from the perspective of an ordinary British and ordinary German soldier as they “lost the will to fight.” There was also a good selection of more well-known songs, too, including a lovely rendition of In The Bleak Midwinter and a rousing sing-along in We Three Kings.

The venue is a beautiful modern performance space, the singing and playing is great but in some ways there seemed to be slightly less of a buzz in the air than when the band played the same venue this time last year, available now as a newly-released live album. Of course, last year had the added sparkle of Ashley Hutchings being presented with his Gold Badge Award from the English Folk Dance and Song Society by the renowned 60s/70s record producer (and discoverer of Fairport Convention)  Joe Boyd. But, if you set aside the laboured attempt at satire it was a great evening with great music.



Gilmore & Roberts at Kings Place 13/6/14

Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts have been an established acoustic duo on the folk and festival scene for some years now, releasing their first album in 2008. Fiddle-player, Gilmore, and guitarist, Roberts, are both accomplished song-writers with each singing the lead vocal on their own respective songs. Tonight they perform a selection of songs from their three albums to date, plus a couple of newbies thrown in as well. Katriona warns the Kings Hall audience to be prepared for huskier vocals tonight as both are suffering from colds but they both still sing their songs beautifully.

Though they are influenced by the folk tradition, their sound has a very fresh and contemporary feel. On the whole they have avoided re-interpretations of traditional songs in favour of self-written material. Louis Was a Boxer, Jamie tells us, is about one of the former customers from his time working behind the counter in a Subway sandwich store, a mundane setting for a poignant tale of a proud man fallen on hard times. Silver Screen, inspired by many, many hours of driving across the country, meanwhile, is Katrina’s ode to the wonders of the satnav. If that sounds horribly naff, don’t worry – it isn’t. But it does demonstrate how at ease they both are at writing folk-inspired music that’s wholly at ease with the modern world. Other songs, like Letters, set in World War II, cover historical events but from a highly personal perspective, which anyone listening will find difficult not to immediately empathise with.

It isn’t just the beautiful lyrics and catchy melodies though. The quality of the musicianship makes a Gilmore & Roberts gig all the more memorable. Roberts’ lap-style guitar technique, in particular, is well worth seeing and hearing. Having caught them on numerous occasions as a simple duo, they are joined tonight by additional guest, Tom Chapman, on percussion. Chapman’s playing perfectly complements the duo and brings an added depth to a number of the songs. If they can get him along to join them for more gigs I’d urge them to go for it.

They encore with Fleetwood Fair, a tale of a mysterious travelling fair that appears from nowhere and disappears just as mysteriously. While that description sounds like it could have been a traditional song unearthed by some Edwardian folk-song collector, it’s entirely penned by Gilmore. But it’s a strong song with which to finish and if, some years down the line, contemporary folk duos go down the route of producing anything as vulgar as greatest hits packages, this will almost certainly be on it. A perfect finish to a memorable evening.


Fay Hield & The Hurricane Party at Kings Place 4/4/14

Kings Place is a plush new contemporary arts venue near Kings Cross. Situated underneath the Guardian/Observer HQ, my gig partner for the evening described those present as a “classic Hampstead dinner party Guardianista audience”.  That meant they were possibly a little bit restrained from when I last caught Fay Hield & the Hurricane Party, at a Great British Folk Festival appearance at Butlins. But she and the band went down well and they were called back for an encore at the end.

Fay Hield was the main mover and shaker behind The Full English, the folk “supergroup” that was put together to delve into the new online archive of early 20th century folk collections and which recently scooped prizes at the BBC folk awards. Two of the songs from the Full English CD, sing-along The Man in the Moon as well as the lovely Awake Awake were performed tonight, some of the highlights from both the album and tonight’s performance. This wasn’t a Full English performance, though, so Hield delved elsewhere into her wide traditional repertoire. Naughty Baby is a traditional lullaby which goes into great detail about threats of beating, dismembering then eating the subject of the song if it won’t stop crying. (With lyrics like that this could only be either a traditional English folk gig or a Norwegian death metal gig). For some unfathomable reason this song fell into obscurity  compared to other popular lullabies which we still hear sung to young children today. But Hield delivers a memorable version of the song’s gruesome lyrics. Other songs tonight include Grey Goose and Gander, King Henry, both from her first album.

Hield has a strong, characterful and distinctive voice, perfect for traditional material of this type. Her blunt Yorkshiresque banter between songs goes down well with the audience and she also has a fine band of supporting musicians. This includes the hugely talented Sam Sweeney on fiddle. One niggle about tonight’s performance is that the band, although they got to perform a number of instrumentals, never got the benefit of a proper introduction. I hope that’s put right next time.

During the show, however, Hield did announce she will be returning with the Full English line-up for a tour in the Autumn – and that will certainly be something I’ll look out for.