Live Review: Andrew Wasylyk – January 19th, The Hug and Pint

Posted by Toni Spencer

Andrew Wasylyk

The Hug and Pint
is a venue that, until this evening, was a place I’d only heard of on Twitter.  The bar is tiny but it’s nicely lit, and it smells wonderful thanks to their Pan-Asian menu.  The décor is like a deconstructed, re-imagined Mondrian painting.  The doors to the venue downstairs are late opening, but the atmosphere in the bar is so inviting, nobody really seems to mind much.  The venue is the smallest venue I’ve been in for years.  It’s about the size of an average living room.  Unlike the average living room, it’s bloody freezing!  Apart from one brave man in a t-shirt, everybody else is wearing coats, scarves and jumpers.

Starting things off is Michael Cassidy, just him and his guitar.  A simple melody is plucked and his sublime, crystal-clear voice easily fills the tiny room.  There’s a song that was, he says, written about the time Arlene Philips left Strictly Come Dancing.  As it turned out, that wasn’t the strangest thing I would hear.  This time around, the melodies are rich and warm, as simple as they are.  The audience is still and utterly hooked.  By the third track, things are much more upbeat, with a steady, driving rhythm and vocals inching closer to a battle cry.  The melody skips along whilst the vocals soar way above – a brilliant combination as it happens.  Death of a Stargazer is reminiscent of James Taylor, although the comparison seems lazy.  A lone person in the crowd is swaying along, and I’m surprised nobody else is.  Announcing that it’s “so cold, it’s playing funny buggers with my guitar… Scottish guitars should be made of harder stuff,” a tune is finally picked out after spending a little time getting things back in order.  The vocals have reached battle cry proportions at last!  It’s the last song, so the capo does a runner.  Bold, and with vocals that are now a little brash, not once have they let up throughout; proof that Michael Cassidy is a truly gifted performer and hearing it in a setting like this has been a real honour.  The bar has been set incredibly high.

Following is pianist Daniel Knox from Springfield, Illinois – and he addresses the Simpson’s “thing” explaining that “everybody knows that The Simpson’s are from Springfield, Oregon,” of course.  He starts to play but nothing happens until a couple of leads are removed and re-inserted into the right slots.  And he croons!  I mean, he actually croons.  For too long the word has been wrongly used as a synonym for singing.  It’s actually a style of singing – think Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby, or even the likes of Sam Smith if you need a contemporary reference point.  Knox, however, easily gives Sinatra et al a run for their money.  There’s a song about time travel called Blue Car – that’s apparently a true story – with things played from a laptop.  The rest of the song is played on a tiny keyboard/synth thing.  I can’t actually tell what it is because, being five-foot-two and people not being see-through, I can barely even see it.  Whatever it is, it makes the most wonderful noise, a gorgeous swell of sounds.  Imagine it played on many strings and it almost brings a tear to the eye.  After each track, Knox crumples up sheets of paper and they scatter around his feet making the creative and artistic struggle real.  There’s a song about gambling, with a sweet, pretty tune and the almost tragic line, “It isn’t love that breaks your heart.”  And there’s a kazoo, making everything seem a bit more bonkers than it already is.  There’s a song about germs and how, whilst not being afraid of germs, Knox explains that they just make him really angry.  The song about his imaginary friend is opulent and perhaps a touch self-indulgent with a melody that’s similar to Moon River but with far less reverent lyrics.  Daniel Knox is a man with many stories to tell, and he tells them so brilliantly and comically, it’s sad to see his set come to an end.

Andrew Wasylyk – and his band – take their time setting up.  There’s a bit more fuss and many comings and goings.  From here, wedged into the darkest corner next to a giant speaker, all I can see of the drummer is a shoulder and the assumed bassist’s elbow.  Wasylyk opens with The Last Of The Loved, and it’s just brilliant.  There’s always something lost in the recordings of things.  Face to face and up close you can hear everything as it should be.  Performing it live gives it another edge, another face you can see and familiarise yourself with.  The sound, even from this darkened corner, is pretty darn good for a tiny room like this.  What usually happens is it bounces off the walls and ends up sounding awful.  Fortunately for Wasylyk and his friends, this doesn’t seem to be happening here; it sounds flawless, absolutely perfect.  I’ve said before that the breadth and depth of Andrew Wasylyk’s talent – the man himself has fingers in many pies, so to speak – is fascinating, and the evening more than proves his worth.  Park Hotel features some glorious backing vocals, they really give the song a lift, giving it so much more power that it’s almost enough to knock you off your feet.

The only flaw comes in the form of drowned out vocals during Calgary Bay, but Wasylyk’s presence more than makes up for it.  There are multiple guitar switcheroos (the technical term for changing guitars), too.  The haze of old Hollywood glamour that drenched his album, released November last year, shimmers even more prominently here. Wasylyk couldn’t be more appreciative if he tried, constantly thanking everyone for “being a nice audience, and being professional,” all adding to his charm and making him a real treat to hear.  He’s also really difficult to predict; the tracks that start small and slightly muted soon turn into something huge.  Judging by this, it won’t be long before Andrew Wasylyk is a name known to all and is surely destined to become one of Scotland’s best artists.


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Posted by: Toni Spencer, 20th February 2016