Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly - Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall
Sam Duckworth has certainly struck a chord in recent months, following the release of his debut album Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager. His current UK tour has seen many dates sell out, this one included, and the critics have been slobbering over him. If you've never heard of him then you may be wondering why he's been so successful. I propose that the main reason is timing. His particular brand of politically-activated electro-folk arrived at a time when the world was (and still is) getting crazier each day, and his voice offers teens an alternative - and worthwhile - viewpoint in a world where Lindsay Lohan is considered a role model. Indeed, many in attendance at the Wolverhampton venue were clearly weeing themselves in anticipation of their idol's appearance.
Before this, however, the audience was subjected to Walter Schreifels. I may be displaying my sheer ignorance here but, despite reference being made to a NYC punk band he's part of, I had never heard of him prior to the gig. It's a shame I had to hear him at the gig. He seemed to be a pleasant enough guy, chatting away with the audience in between songs, but c'mon! Armed only with a guitar and capo, Schreifels strummed his way through a performance that made Jack Johnson's output sound radical. I really wanted to like him but, for fudges sake, he sings about zoo animals and his bike being stolen. In a really boring way.
Thank heavens for Jeremy Warmsley! Joined by a three-piece band and donning his trademark geek-chic braces, he was a joy to behold. Playing a short set of six tracks, he still managed to steal the whole show. His captivating love songs I Promise and I Believe in the Way You Move opened and closed his set, respectively, whilst two new tracks were showcased and greeted with cheers from an appreciative audience. Switching between guitars and keys, Warmsley gave an arresting performance pitched perfectly between oddball experimentalism and good old-fashioned talent. The highlight was Dirty Blue Jeans, its stop-start-soar structure and lyrical naughtiness ('We fucked all night in my brother's old bedroom') just as effective live as on record.
The crowd, although impressed, were not there for Mr Warmsley and so it came as no surprise that they went stark-raving mad when the main attraction took to the stage. Accompanied by a drummer and cornet player, he kicked things off by strumming away to Part 2 of his album's titular track. Adoration levels were sky high - unreasonably so, in my eyes. Call Me Ishmael is a rousing anthem that unites 9-to-5ers whilst catchy I Spy is as good a pop song as was released all last year. However, much of his setlist suffered from the fact that most songs sounded like the one that came before it. It's a pity because Sam is an enthusiastic performer and his songs have something to say. He even paused between tracks to discuss the issues his songs raise, sitting quite comfortably on his soap-box for a rant against Channel 4 and Endemol for that Big Brother controversy which has been causing so much trouble. Despite his set lasting for a mere hour, it felt longer due to the tempo of his world-weary protest songs rarely shifting. Although all his tracks are easy on the ears, I can't help confusing them - Glass Houses, Lighthouse Keeper, etc. Unfortunately, it's all the same to me.
Encores can, through experience, save the day and this gig was no exception. War of the Worlds sounded fantastic, and I couldn't help but wish he had a few more big guns like this to pull out. As I left the Wulfrun Hall, it was with a sense of satisfaction and no shred of doubt that the Warmsley boy outperformed the Cape lad. Maybe he'll be higher on the bill than Sam one day.