Live Review: JR Green, Richard Sharman + Alan Carberry – 6th February, Tolbooth

Posted by Laura Imrie

JR Green
Think Thoughts returned to Stirling’s Tolbooth last weekend.  After the success it had in 2015, the event (which runs through the month of February as well as later in the year too) promoting talented songwriters put on its first gig of its 2016 term.

The Auditorium Stage had been transformed into a candle-lit haven – far different and much more personal than the set-up from Strange Behaviours when I had previously been at Tolbooth – ready to be filled with the talent and great acoustic music of the evening’s performers.

First to take to the intimate stage was Richard Sharman – admitting to the crowd that this was his first ‘proper’ gig, you wouldn’t have been able to tell otherwise.  His set was filled with personality as he filled space between songs with anecdotes from tales of the beginning of his musical talent to the meanings behind certain songs. He began his set with Summer Breeze – a great song to contrast with the dreary Scottish weather we were having that night – and continued on with other songs such as The Genie, which was the first song he had ever written at the age of 17.  His final two songs were separated by a musical interlude demonstrating his guitar skills and also adding some uniqueness to his music as he played around with some unusual and distorted notes.

His soulful voice and songs about love coupled with the intimate setting would be enough to pull at the heartstrings of anyone and turn them into a fan of his music.

Stirling local Alan Carberry was up next, continuing on the acoustic theme of the evening.  With a sound similar to Ben Howard and James Bay, his stripped back and husky vocals captivated his audience. He also appeared as a very endearing performer, making awkward mistakes such as spilling his beer and struggling to move his guitar cord out of the way receiving some laughs from the audience.

The highlight of his set was definitely his performance of Something Real – which is available on Spotify.  The beautifully haunting vocals and harmonies created with the female vocalist in the performance created a sound similar to that of Of Monsters and Men and left the audience silent.  His performance of Pale Blue Sky (which will be available on his new EP coming out around March/April) showed the audience his true skills as a musician as he took a seat on stage and used his guitar flat on his knee rather than in the traditional way.  This added a different element to his sound as the drumming on the guitar created some percussion to go along with the acoustic guitar sound taking charge of the evening.

He ended his set on a sweet and sentimental note with the song Willow Tree which he told us was written for his grandfather and was full of emotive, creating a lovely finish to his performance.

JR Green – brothers Jacob and Rory Green – were last to take to the stage, bringing something a little different to what we had seen during the rest of the evening.  Although the indie-acoustic guitar sound was still very prominent in their music, they also had the inclusion of an accordion – a much underused instrument in popular music.  The brothers’ powerful vocals and up-tempo music created a different feel in the room from their more chilled-out support creating an incredibly energetic and (literally) foot-stomping performance.

Their set showcased their EP Bring The Witch Doctor with songs such as Nigerian Princess and The Gentleman’s Apocalypse taking centre stage.  The latter created a nice contrast to the rest of their setlist as it is a much calmer song with acoustic guitar taking the lead and also gave the audience a chance to hear Jacob and Rory’s vocals working in harmony without being distracted by the energetic music.

Fast-paced and upbeat tracks such as The Hunger made me want to get up and dance – being Scottish, it’s hard to hear an accordion without it creating school ceilidh flashbacks.  However, JR Green manage to modernise the use of an accordion and make it ‘cool’.

Each act brought something individual and different to the stage in their performances and showed that you can take the same base instrument – an acoustic guitar – and create something unique.

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