Orlando Weeks


When indie-rock mavericks The Maccabees played their final shows last summer, I did wonder if we’d hear from any of them again. But it was only a matter of months before frontman Orlando Weeks announced a project he’d been working on for quite some time, The Gritterman. Starting life from a song, the story quickly developed into both a book and an album, lovingly written, illustrated and performed by Orlando. Along with the help of much loved British actor/comedian Paul Whitehouse playing the part of our seasonal hero, The Gritterman went onto be recreated live last Christmas in Orlando’s home city of London.

To celebrate its recent paperback release, Orlando and Paul have reunited for three special festival performances. Tonight sees The Gritterman being performed for the first time outside of London and I am thrilled to be sat upstairs in the beautiful surroundings of the Albert Hall on this calm Wednesday evening.

As Orlando enters the stage, backed by a band and choir, I notice Paul Whitehouse stood on the upper decking, looking down on the stage. I like how the two elements have been separated, like Paul is set on his own little stage, portraying the character of a humble man that grits the winter roads of his local area. The story takes place on Christmas Eve, as we are taken on the Gritterman’s final round. The Gritterman talks to us about his profession and his love for it as well as taking us through his preparations and plans of the job. These small pockets of spoken word are interspersed with musical interludes as Orlando sings songs themed to the Character’s dialogue, backed with these beautiful arrangements driven by piano, bass, guitar and an angelic choir.

Some of the songs are rousing and rhythmical to help paint a musical picture of the weather conditions, the actions of The Gritterman and his beloved gritting van. Other songs are gentle and sweet as our hero tells us about the love of his late wife and how he gets a kick from the general public cheering him along as he works. Musically, the guitars are washed with reverb, the pianos tinkle and the choir soars in harmony to create a heartwarming soundtrack to convey this feeling of care and safety that the Gritterman exudes. There is such a humbleness to both the story and the music with Orlando’s gentle falsetto croon perfectly conveying the sweet and kind nature of our hero.

Everything about this performance is just perfect. The band and choir sound gorgeous, Orlando’s voice is impeccable and Paul’s take on the character is beautifully delivered with warmth, wit and sincerity. Mixed with elegant lighting shifts and the stunning, festively decorated surroundings of The Albert Hall, I am left breathless. I hope this is the start of a new Christmas tradition, a tale that tells us to keep on keeping on and that no one is ever truly alone.

Orlando Weeks: Official | Facebook | Twitter

Benjamin Forrester

I joined the Silent Radio family near the very start of my move to Manchester in 2012 and I'm still having the best time! During my stay here I've been in two noisy bands, had a not so noisy solo project, made a zine, started a blog and started a radio show. It's been productive to say the least and it's all been intersperse with a shit load of gig going and beer drinking. I would love it if you followed me on twitter @dr_brainless for excitable tweets about playing, watching and living new music.