Photo: Peter Rea

Photo: Peter Rea


There’s an American feel about this venue, and so Widowspeak should feel right at home. The support band come from Wigan but sound very Country indeed. The stage is set.

It’s dark in here and I’m not wearing my glasses… but I can hear drumming and can’t see the drummer. Turn’s out, one of the trio has been replaced by a small box on the floor. A surprising and somewhat unwelcome twist to the evening.

Bassist/guitarist Robert Earl Thomas shuffles around his half of the stage, gently swinging his hippy hair back and forth, while triggering recorded beats with his boot. Molly Hamilton cuts an 80’s figure with big curly hair and comfortable large jumper, stroking her white Fender and singing Mazzy Star-like soothing vocals over Chris Isaac style haunting dreamy Americana melodies.

‘Nothing Wrong’ works well with the programmed drummer… but the superb ‘In The Pines’ somewhat loses it’s edge. The clinically accurate repetitive beat becomes too distracting – too perfect. It doesn’t deviate from it’s set parameters. It’s not human, that’s the problem.

After considering that ‘Ballad of The Golden Hour’ and ‘True Believer’ would be better without a beat at all, they play Chris Isaac’s ‘Wicked Game’ and ‘Thick as Thieves’, without a beat at all. The drumming situation is too distracting and is preventing me from fully enjoying the gig. ‘Harsh Realm’ and ‘Gun Shy’ manage to somewhat change my mind, but the gig is all but over. ‘The Dark Age’ still manages to thrill, however, finishing on a high and drawing rapturous applause. No encore, unfortunately… so many other tunes of theirs that I wanted to hear.

To summarise – they need a new drummer. I’m completely hooked on both of their albums, their self-titled debut topped my 2011 annual list, and this years ‘Almanac’ looks set to feature very highly as well, but the current live setup doesn’t meet my high expectations. Two guitars and a vocal do sound great on occasion, but I think they need a little more depth in their set.

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Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.