Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Cherry Ghost

Òran Mór, Glasgow - 17th June 2014

It was a happen-chance hearing of "Kissing Strangers" on the This Is My Jam website on June 2010 that drew me into Cherry Ghost's world of songs filled with hope and light, but often with a dark background.

Biog stuff: Taking his name from a line in a tune by Wilco (Theologians), Cherry Ghost is the stage name for Simon Aldred, a British singer songwriter who decided to strike out on his own as a solo act in 2005 after several years of playing in a succession of not-so-successful bands. Aldred quickly earned a reputation as a "band" to watch (Later with Jools Nov 2006), and Aldred began performing live under the Cherry Ghost name. The debut Cherry Ghost single, "Mathematics," was released in April 2007. A second single, "People Help The People," arrived the following June. The debut Cherry Ghost album, Thirst for Romance, was released in July 2007. The "Kissing Strangers" track which originally caught my ear was from the follow-up album "Beneath This Burning Shoreline" - July 2010. Well worth a listen. As Cherry Ghost's performing schedule increased, Aldred turned Cherry Ghost into a "real" band with a stable lineup: Jim Rhodes, Ben Parson, Grenville Harrop, and Phil Anderson. Herd Runners, the latest album, was released May 19th 2014. 

This was their mini tour kick-off gig and the Oran Mor venue was pretty hot - it was about 25 degrees Celcius outside and hotter still indoors. Cherry Ghost strolled onto stage, trying unsuccessfully not to break into a sweat.
They were a scaled down band with just Simon Aldred (vocals, guitar), Christian Madden (keyboards) and Grenville Harrop (drums). Madden sat at his keyboard and immediately took off his boots and played the whole gig in his bright red socks.
Aldred kicked things off with "Hello Glasgow" and launched into the heartfelt "Drinking For Two". The crowd cheered and sang along enthusiastically, finally whooping and shouting encouragement at the end. 

Aldred was obviously pleasantly surprised and said "Cheers everyone. We've been supporting Paul Heaton recently" someone in the audience whooped and Aldred continued "oh ok, a supporter, well we won't slag them off then" and smiled. He continued "we've done a whole string of gigs and all we ever get is a polite clap clap, so this is really nice".

The title track from the new album, Herd Runners, was next. The crowd re-doubled their singalong efforts and joined in for "4 a.m.", "Clear Skies Ever Closer" and almost every track.
On "Thirst For Romance" from the first album, Cherry Ghost performed a great up-tempo dancealong version and the audience responded noisily. 
When they finished the song, Aldred said "Not sure we deserve such applause - we screwed up a couple of time there!" but the crowd didn't seem to notice or care.

I particularly liked the subtle darkness of "My God Betrays" and the heart-wrenching, organ filled beauty of "Please Come Home".

Curfew time was approaching when they finished "Mathematics" with a lot more crowd singalong, word perfect. Aldred looked embarrassed and said "Cheers, but full marks to everyone who noticed I fucked up the 2nd verse". He looked at his watch and said "OK, we've got about 10 minutes left, but we're not going to bother going off and you cheer and shout, then we come back on for an encore - waste of time. We'll play another couple for tracks, then we're off!" 

Smiles and cheers from the audience, as they played the intro to "Four Eyes". They followed that with "People Help The People" and it was over. The house lights came up and we went to peruse the merchandise stand.

It was really good to see Aldred obviously moved by the support of the Glasgow crowd, and for their first headline gig on this mini-tour, albeit with a scaled down band, it was a really good night.

Set-list was:
Drinking For Two
Herd Runners
(It's) 4am
Clear Skies Ever Closer
A Month Of Mornings
False Alarm
Thirst For Romance 
All I Want
My God Betrays
Please Come Home
Four Eyes
People Help The People 

The Rails

The support act were a complete unknown to me before the gig, so it was a really pleasant surprise to see and hear The Rails who are singer-songwriter duo Kami Thompson and James Walbourne. 

James has played with Ray Davies, become part of the touring line up for The Pogues and joined The Pretenders as lead guitarist in 2008. In 2011, he made his first solo album, The Hill, for Heavenly records. 

Kami is the youngest daughter of Richard and Linda Thompson, the first couple of Seventies folk rock. She has been a backing singer with Linda, performed with members of the Wainwright family, toured with Sean Lennon and Bonnie Prince Billy and released her own solo album, Love Lies, on Warner Music in 2011. 

Co-produced by Blue Boy himself,  Edwyn Collins, The Rails debut album Fair Warning is packed with traditional and original songs. Recognising class when they hear it, Island records have revived their famous vintage Pink Label for the duo.

Their songs were all performed to twin acoustic guitar backing, beautifully performed. Kami has such a good voice, and James has amazing guitar skills (I would love to have heard him more electrified) and together their harmonies were spot on. Some of the songs were straight up country (e.g. Habit and William Taylor), but where I think they really shone was on their slightly darker, more edgy or up-tempo songs - Send Her To Holloway, Fair Warning and Breakneck Speed. They also do a lovely cover of Edwyn Collins' Low Expectations

Go and hear them live if you can before they break big - you won't regret it


  1. Christian Madden played keyboards for this show, Ben hasn't played with the band for nearly four years...

    1. Thanks - appreciate the update. I should have checked the Herd Runners sleeve rather than taking Wikipedia at face value.