Live at the Apollo but not as you know it, with drinks spilt and laughs shared but of a different variety. The Stable, Cheltenham, were hosts to a busy night of live music. A struggle for seating and the hustle and bustle of performers both on and off shift, the dim lighting shone across oak with stockpiled beers, ciders and grins spread ear to ear. Apollo Music’s night was a jovial one, and here is the rundown..
Opening with Chameleon, Ben Cipolla got play underway with a light helping of soulful latin-esk style guitar work, twinned with melodies reminiscent of Jack Johnson after a few fruity pitchers. The bar was set and set high with a familiarly composed performance with new release Worthwhile being particularly memorable, that strayed between soothing melodies and down alleys of more frantic guitar picking. The counter melodies rang nicely between voice and instrument with Saskia and Copa Cappuccino was the easiest of listening with a Spiro Gyra style spring in its step.
Elena followed and continued the strong vocal performance that was on show an act previous, starting with a Beyonce cover that now escapes me. Crowd interaction was friendly and at times very upper class, with ‘‘We were actually talking about this earlier over dinner’’ striking a very ‘hyacinth bucket’ tone. Original song Nickel was not quite as broadway as made out by the artist, but perhaps a more gentle stroll through tin pan alley yet still registering well nonetheless. The crowds attention seemed elsewhere at times, with the arrival of many a stonebaked pizza seeming to take priority. Despite at times seeming somewhat out of breath in the big chorus’, the set was cycled through well and was a strong Spilt Milk Debut.
Joel Francis seemed his own worst critic at times, disputing whether he can hit the range of some of his youthful songwriting however this didn’t show. A very commercial voice and look made this act particularly strong, with a chart-able style of songwriting. Despite quality shown via the performer, again the audience seemed somewhat elsewhere which is always unfair at times, but it’s not like you can tell them that is it.
The penultimate act was Natalie Holmes who was very accomplished and perhaps the strongest of the supports, with a very Sharon Van Etten sounding influence. Her set was heightened via a vocal harmony pedal which really brought life into sections and added another dimension to the performance. A few moments such as tuning aloud could perhaps be forgiven with such a good display, but don’t call your track ‘Umbrella’ when Rihanna already knocked that one for 6.
More originally titled ‘Motorway Mary’ by the evening’s headliner Harry Daniels Band must surely win song title of the decade, which the crowd at this point at its peak essentially knew every line. Lines of students were now off benches and bunched together wrestling to throw out their prize undies forward. It was clear these lads were having the best time which really adds a great deal to the spectacle, keys were at times overdominant but I always feel that in the live environment with how they can clutter the mix. The output was professional and were brought back to earth between songs with boyish crowd interaction, with gazes towards the merch table met with the line ‘We have T shirts over there, they cost a bomb mind’. Harry knows that he hasn’t got the range of the world’s best vocalist but his charisma and performance style pulls him through, as a he is relatable and authentic. Changed for one night only, ‘Streets of Cheltenham’ was a really good ballad, with enough groove to keep everyone hanging in there for the big single Troubadour. This track eclipsed the drunken merriment from every angle, a fantastic closer and a great curtain closer for the night, for the boys module and maybe even top draw for the University highlight reel.