Live at Primrose on Friday, 16th June 2006
It started out looking like an almost over-modest evening's entertainment. With no announcement either from pub staff or from himself, Dave Willis did a 25 minute set of strummed acoustic guitar (loud) and effective voice - before leaving the performance area in the same anonymous fashion he'd arrived, though to energetic applause from his listeners. Within minutes we witnessed the evening's first show of Fender or Fenderish guitars, in the hands of The Fineprint. A bass, two different Telecasters and a Strat all looked quite recently unboxed, but the guys using them got some good shrill jerky rhythms out of them, which well suited their vocalist's declamatory style. I got the impression the drummer may have been more experienced than the others, but wouldn't have guessed it was the band's first gig. As such it deserves a nod of acknowledgement.
Wilful Missing were slower setting up, and not without reason, as in addition to a similar selection of Fenderware, they were preparing to use keyboard, mandolin, acoustic guitar and a certain amount of pre-recorded percussion (which was occasionally over-strong on bass). Quite enough to keep three players occupied you might think, and indeed it did much more than that because Wilful Missing brought to their instruments a showing of musicianship and creativity, plus the distinctive sound of the band's songwriter and lead singer Sam Kipling. It's a voice not always under perfect control, but spacious and with an attention-holding timbre, well expressing the emotional quality in much of their music. Sam Lawrence's harmonising vocals blend smoothly with this, and his instrumental versatility shows in how he handles keyboard and mandolin ; on his principle instrument the Stratocaster he's ambitious and interesting, making me wish at times for a clearer view. Albert Freeman, Bass guitar - and percussion tech for this gig - also brings a worthwhile third singing voice. Bradford's Wilful Missing seem to be instinctive elaborators of melody, and a rewarding texture appears to develop effortlessly in their work. The effects of this didn't go unrecognised by tonight's audience, who would have gladly stayed for more. At the end of the evening satisfaction was widespread - and the Primrose itself even got special thanks from the band, for their name being spelt right on the blackboard outside.