Live Review | The Regent, Doncaster | Review by Allan Wilkinson
First impressions can often be blighted by either a certain bias or chronic suspicion when the publicity material declares that an artist is apparently ‘John Martyn meets Nick Drake for the 21st Century’. You tend to be on the lookout for signs and similarities even before the man has struck a single note. Once that note has been struck though, along with several others in this case, the John Martyn influence is more than just apparent. Arborise appears to have devoured and digested a veritable feast of Martyn, from the delicious starter course of “Bless the Weather”, through the main course of “Solid Air” and ending up with a dessert of “Sunday’s Child”. Thankfully he stopped there and didn’t bother with the wafer thin mint, which would no doubt have taken him on a similar tangent of saxophone-heavy post One World period mush that may have blighted Martyn’s reputation in the Eighties. For those of us who anchor after the Inside Out period Martyn and who would willingly trade an arm or a leg to have been at the Live in Leeds gig in the mid-Seventies, then we have the young Dan Arborise to deliver something similar and with significant talent and immeasurable flair. There is an extraordinarily familiar slurred and breathy vocal delivery, a soulful quality to the songs, an effect pedal driven guitar style reminiscent of Martyn’s echoplex-drenched shenanigans of the Seventies, all of which create a problem for this reviewer, in that the comparison is impossible to overlook. It is effectively ‘Zzzolid Air’ for this generation. The Nick Drake influence however, is much less apparent. Most sensitive guitar players with a fragile voice are compared to Drake these days but thankfully we are spared a straight copy. I can’t think of anything more cringe-worthy than a Nick Drake tribute act, you know, those musicians who choose to carefully absorb each digit from the tablature book and go to great lengths to produce a carbon replica of “Fruit Tree”, complete with ‘tortured artist’ tattoo’d across the furrows of his (or her) brow. What’s the point? Thankfully, what Arborise does is bring to his music the ethereal spirit of Drake without seemingly replicating his style or sound. Dan Arborise appeared relaxed on stage at the Regent tonight. You imagine none of these songs are played quite the same on any two nights. It was difficult to tell exactly where one song ended and another one started, but this was in no way uncomfortable for the listener. For all intents and purposes, each song of the set could have segued into each other and I wouldn’t have batted a closed eyelid. It was music to drift off to. I guess the inconvenience of changing tunings, having a sip of water or just basically drawing breath were good enough reasons for breaks between some of the songs in the performance, but essentially it was all part of the same organic flow of sound. Improvisational at their core, the songs lent themselves to the creation of an ambient soundscape rather than a distinct set of individual songs. Even the irritating emergency service vehicle sirens from the streets outside spookily blended in with the overall sound without too much disruption. Now you couldn’t say that if it happened half way through a tin whistle tune at a Vin Garbutt convention! Half of the material tonight was relatively new, with a handful of songs from the debut Around in Circles album. “Let Me Be”, “Take Heart in Your Hope” and the instrumental interlude “Paths” were presented together as an uninterrupted suite, which incorporated various swirling tempo changes and the clever use of foot-operated sampling devices ensuring the performance maintained a coherent thread that held our interest. “Everything You’ve Been Taught to Love sis a Lie” is one of Dan’s outstanding songs both on record and in live performance. The heavily echo-laden guitar solo, which takes up the second half of the song, had an almost spiritual quality in its mantra-like pulsating rhythm. If there was any doubt about the extent of Dan’s love affair with the music of John Martyn, it was all pretty much confirmed by the time the encore came around, where “tonight Matthew, Dan Arborise is going to be..” as he closed the night with a pretty faithful version of “Don’t Want to Know”. Despite the comparisons, Dan Arborise is an artist in his own right who can hold an audience’s attention throughout a performance with little chit-chat and with exclusive emphasis on emotive and dexterous handling of original songs. A memorable night.