Duke Garwood

Duke Garwood


Sometimes, the choices you take by pure chance really do you well. Duke Garwood gives us an evening of seminal intimacy and peace of mind at Manchester’s Deaf Institute. In fact, this venue seems perfectly suited for him. To be honest, I end up here only because I didn’t manage to get tickets for Seasick Steve, who’s performing at the very same time at another venue in Manchester. No worries, Duke Garwood is such a worthwhile and equally qualified alternative for this Saturday night. Seasick Steve himself speaks like this of the London-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist: “Garwood is the most soul-acious soul man I know”.

The audience’s average age is about 40-50 years old, apart from several younger exceptions. Before the gig starts, Garwood makes a couple of trips from the backstage to the smoking terrace, through the stage. And I do confirm: his mysterious and intense aura does not belong to the clichéd rock n’ roll system.

The evening starts with his colleague and member of his crew San Moritzz’s experimental unique piece. Moritzz enters the stage with such a casual appearance (T-shirt, jeans and a Texan-trucker-like cap) that makes me think he’s a technician at first. But as soon as he starts experimenting with weird sounds on the keyboard, carefully distorted with multiple synthesizers, I realise how wrong I was with my unconscious (bloody) prejudice.

He smoothly takes us to a progressive fog. At this point, my question is: will these misty sounds clear or will they drift into a darker atmosphere? I overhear someone in the audience saying that a couple of joints would help him “better understand” Moritzz’s music. Well, maybe it’s not a legal drug (yet), but the tones of an overly sweet fragrance that wears a woman sitting next to me clearly has an effect on my judgement, so please bear this in mind when reading the following lines.

His one single piece, about 20-25 minutes long, sounds gently chaotic. I can easily imagine a psychedelic road trip, but I can’t specify if it’s a daytime or night-time driving. Blame the sticky perfume overdose…

The whole room gets dark except for the lights coming from the bar’s fridges. Garwood starts his performance with British punctuality, at 20:45. He is accompanied by Paul V May on drums, John J Presley on guitar and Patrick Dawes on percussion. After a promising opener and the song that gives name to his latest album (Heavy Love, 2015), the audience is already prepared to go deep into the desert that it is said Garwood draws with his whispering-penetrating voice and the roughness of his naked guitar.

Dark blues sandstorms are foreseen.

Garwood seems so humble on the stage. All his soul is on the guitar, suited to his deep voice, remarkably redolent of Mark Lanegan’s at many times. Two years ago, they both released their first studio collaboration, Black Pudding, a painkiller gem of stone for the soul. Here’s another fun fact: did you know that the outstanding song I Am The Wolf, included in Mark Lanegan’s Phantom Radio album, is written by Garwood himself?

Duke Garwood

Duke Garwood

Back to the gig, Garwood and his band just need three songs to get audience’s “wooow!” in unison. It happens with Disco Lights, from his Heavy Love new album as well. In spite of some too grating sounds that break this darkly sweet harmony, Garwood’s performance is simply brilliant.

As they play some older songs –Rank Panache from Dreamboatsafari album and I Can Wait from Emerald Palace, the faint lights on the stage turn subtly green. Have we reached an oasis in the desert yet?

His band remains even more discreet than Garwood himself. “Drummer poet” Paul May always looking to his right; a silent and downcast John J Presley and an almost hidden behind his shiny kettledrums Patrick Dawes. They only leave Garwood completely alone in the dark with his guitar in the dreamy Sweet Wine. The silence in the room, only broken by the badly-timed sound of a beer can when it’s opened, is overwhelming. Totally mind-blowing.

The lights are now cabaret-like red, and Garwood shows his arachnid guitar technique, as his right hand caresses the guitar furiously and softly at the same time. “I’ve got particular fingers”, he admits in an interview with The Quietus(*). “I like to keep the sound going. I like my notes to keep ringing, for as long as I can keep them ringing”, he adds.

He alternately goes from the past (The Sand That Falls, 2009) to the very present (Heavy Love, 2015) performing May I Rumble, Honey In The Ear, Ho Diddi and Suppertime In Hell. After an oasis of peace, an electrical storm explodes with Sometimes. “Sometimes… we are free”. Peak and bravo.

He chooses After Rise a Woman for the encore. The spiritual walk comes to an end with blue lights and Burning Seas, also from his latest album.

“If you’re going to put your boat out on the ocean, make sure there are no holes in it”, Garwood’s dixit*. His music has no holes at all, definitely.

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Amaia Santana

Good karma brought me here to Manchester, my second home, where you can stay healthy (despite the weather) and young forever, as you can breathe live music in every corner of the city. I do believe in the healing power of music (rock is my life vest) and I'd be so glad to share my passion with you rockers of the world!