Paul Steel - Wolverhampton Little Civic
Don't you just hate it when you go along to a gig, knowing the artist/band is worthy of a sold-out venue, and there are about twenty people in attendance? It's a crying shame that bright young thing Paul Steel played to a dismal turnout at Wolverhampton but, on the evidence of his performance, he won't have to worry about selling tickets soon enough. Having just released mini-album April & I (his 'proper' debut should be out by the end of the year), Steel's brand of charming firecracker pop should put him on the radar sooner rather than later. Joined on stage by a five-piece band - drummer, bassist, guitarist, and two lovely young ladies on backing vocals/percussion - Mr Steel looked right at home behind his keyboard and guitar strap, and didn't waste time in getting down to the serious business of majestic pop noise...
Due to the fact April & I is a concept album that follows the journey of Paul and his imaginary friend - the titular April, of course - he neglects to play most of the tracks, I assume because they don't work out of context. However, he does play perhaps three of the best songs from that glorious debut showing. April is the highlight, a mini-epic that worships at the throne of pop royalty and steals accordingly - you get a big Beach Boys summery sound, the upbeat piano of Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk-era Rufus Wainwright, and arrangements/orchestration that wouldn't sound out of place in a show-stopping musical. And all within three minutes! Imaginary, with its 'wall of sound' Phil Spector vibe, is just as bombastic but Honkin' (On My Crackpipe) offers something a little different. As he claims before segueing into the comedy Scottish accent that acts as the song's intro ('This shit is pure fucking belter man!' - ha!), this song ain't gonna be featured on Blue Peter anytime soon. If it weren't for the song's subject matter though, this would undoubtedly kick arse on the radio all summer long, combining keys and sparse acoustic guitar to create a simple but loveable sing-a-long that contains the killer refrain 'I'm gonna suck that big white crack right into my face!'.
The remainder of the set - another four or five songs - saw Steel and his band performing a number of tracks that will probably feature on his full-length debut. Despite not being familiar with these songs, they were all winning. Although they were of various tempos and tones, and perhaps a bit rockier than the April & I stuff, they were all joyous ditties verging on the psychedelic that prove Steel is already in possession of his own trademark sound. He may be a product of his influences, sure, but this boy is thinking big and, considering he's just out of his teens, this is a tremendous platform for him to step off from. The only downside was the set didn't last too long but that's the same with all newbies. Given time to grow into his ambitious ideas, as well as the right industry backing and word-of-mouth fan worship, Paul Steel could be pop's saviour. Word.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 02:54:57