Artist: Phil Beer
Venue: The Square Tower
In many ways, writing a review of a Phil Beer gig can be a superfluous and often pointless exercise, purely and simply because this multi-talented artist does not do ordinary or indeed standard. If Carlsberg made English folk musicians…..!
Another sell-out crowd (big thanks to everyone who came, and even those who phoned up for tickets belatedly only to be disappointed) once again breathed life into the wonderfully historic surrounds of the Square Tower, cheering an ebullient Mr Beer onto the stage as he opened with the clear and concise acoustic guitar refrains of “Keep Your Distance”, followed by “Acadian Driftwood”, which allowed free reign to Phil’s dulcet vocal tones.
One of the great things about Phil is undoubtedly his ability to connect with his audience on both musical and personal levels. His between-song banter is often informative, sometimes hilarious, but always interesting. Whether it’s a pertinent and topical observation, or even linking some of the songs to the venue (very clever!), you feel like you’re just having a chat and a drink with an old friend.
Even the lonesome melancholy of Richard Shindell’s road-song “Next Best Western” is tempered by the wry smiles on the chorus – a curious but heady mix of sadness and humour.
Phil is renowned world-wide for his mastery of all things stringed, and naturally he doesn’t disappoint in this department. It is a joy just to sit, watch and listen to an artist of the very highest calibre cajoling sounds from mandolin, ukelele, fiddle and acoustic guitar that us mere mortals can only dream of. We just watched in awe as Phil’s fingers danced delightfully over the fretboard and “Bonny Bunch Of Roses” cannily segued into “Warlike Lads Of Russia”.
We were also treated to a demonstration of how a simple ukelele can be used to produce traditional Irish dance tunes! Digits of lightning no less – don’t try this at home kids!
It wasn’t long before Phil had an enraptured audience singing along with him whole-heartedly to “Pleasant and Delightful”, and then finally to Reg Meuross’ “Farewell You Birmingham Ladies”, as the evening was bought to a delightfully whimsical and participatory close.
Lots of lovely smiles as people filed out from a venue that has seen more than it’s fair share of historic performances over the course of 500 years, and had just added another…..!