Julian Velard - Manchester Academy
Velard takes to the Academy stage to enthusiastic applause (Whaddya expect from an audience here for headliner Amy McDonald - bottles ?) and knocks out six or seven songs built on unfashionably spirited foundations. From his onstage manner to simply his manner of performance - focused but loose, impassioned but deft - I find much to like about this young New Yorker. I wish I could have made out exactly his asides to the crowd because he seems wry enough and gets laughs closer to the stage but enough songs stand out and that's what counts, right ? Current single 'Jimmy Dean and Steve McQueen' gets the best response, so clearly others have registered its current position on the Radio 2 playlist. But it's some of the less obvious moments that turn the head. If you can forgive the lack of song titles - an album is forthcoming - then the one that sounds a bit like Ben Folds' 'Landed' has a killer chorus. And (the one that is definitely called) 'A Dream' is something approaching crazy, over-reaching art. There are others; a voice with a dollop of gravel, some athletic piano and the always welcome smell of doomed romanticism.
Because he's already attracting comparisons that will do him no favours at all (Tom Waits, Van Morrison, Elton John) I have to be a bit smarter. So, to these ears, he brings to mind Britain's own prince of crazy piano-led pop swirl, Paul Steel (Currently AWOL, it would seem - needs correcting that, young man) and the grand old dame of tinkling troubadors, Dean Friedman. Based on this brief introduction, I'm keen to hear more.