Artist: Marty O’Reilly (solo show)
Venue: The Square Tower
Date: 25th February 2017
Another breathtakingly memorable night at the Square Tower saw the return of Marty O’Reilly, tonight in intimate solo guise following last summer’s debut triumph with his Old Soul Orchestra. In front of an invited audience, privileged guests in celebration of 4 years of the sterling Square Roots brand, the young Californian took us back to his roots as a solo performer.
Songs from his two CD releases took on new life as he took up his resonator with slide, and harp on a stunning Gospel opener ‘Light From The Lighthouse’ which set the mood before ‘Alone At The Table’ written about a visit to his newly deceased grandmother’s favourite restaurant with his sister. Splendid Singer Songwriter fare with some lovely guitar work redolent of ‘Albatross’.
On his 4th visit to the UK and finally acquiring a taste for the beer! Marty was in expansive mood and another lovely slab of Gospel, which suits his demonic full on vocal delivery perfectly, was followed by the hauntingly evocative ‘Cocoon’. The quirky ‘Captain’s Daughter’ had that tremulous ghostly vocal over a staccato guitar underpin.
Having self-taught himself on guitar, starting with one chord Blues, it was entirely appropriate that a personal favourite came up next, with Marty wondering whether it would “work performing it for the first time on this solo tour”. Following a discourse on his admiration for Wolf’s ‘London Sessions’, a wonderfully vibrant rendition of ‘Smokestack Lightning’ saw Marty crouched flailing over his resonator, engendering tumultuously rapturous applause and assurances from the crowd that it had indeed worked!
A cover of a little known John Vandiver’s ‘Over Your Shoulder’, and ‘Mad Time At Bedlam’ with its other worldly exorcism like delivery brought the interval up all too quickly. I did manage a brief discussion with the very approachable Marty, on our mutual admiration for the Blues greats such as Wolf and Willie Dixon before a delightfully quirky children’s song ‘Cinnamon Tree’ got us started after the break.
The epic spiritual ‘When The Water Runs Dry’ with its ironic rain dance intent, whilst his home state is actually being flooded, highlighted his unusual pincer like crab claw grip of his guitar strings. A fascinating dialogue followed about the mutation and evolution in his music as the band formed and developed, and Marty then showcased some new songs in stripped down solo mode. Light and shade with ‘Stereoscope’ about the spiritual depth of your loved ones and how you try to help them through troubled times. Back to another inspiration, Reverend Gary Davis for an elemental Gospel based on Samson and Delilah. A seminal ‘Cold Canary Gaslight’, the subject of the band’s first ever video release was written about the family’s 50 year old house, “we don’t do 500 years like you do here!”.
Noting UK audiences predilection for shouting ‘more’ rather than the US use of ‘encore’ he did recount a foreign couple shouting ‘entourage’ which naturally encouraged us to do likewise. With great reward too as no less than three encores brought the enthralled and partisan crowd to their feet. A punchy and compelling ‘Little Liza Jane’ began and a stunning Tom Waits’ ‘Chocolate Jesus’ was another resounding success. It followed after Marty’s childhood tale of attending the same school as the legends children, and him even plucking up courage to ask if he could base an essay project on the singer before lacking the guts to follow up on the offer.
An opportunity missed there indeed, but certainly not for us as the remarkable fusion of primal Delta Blues with Gospel and Soul threads, and that incredible gut wrenching quite unique, emotive vocal timbre. With the audience set in an arc around the artist at the side of the main room this was an incredibly powerful experience. We await his promised return with the full band again next year with great anticipation.
Review By: Bob Chaffey
Photos By: Dickie Spurgin