John Reilly

Live Review | The Wheelhouse, Wombwell | Review by Allan Wilkinson

The Wheelhouse was full to capacity tonight as Liverpool-born Boy on a Dolphin frontman John Reilly, together with Canadian collaborator and tour companion Lewis Nitikman, made their debut at the small South Yorkshire venue.  Selecting songs from John’s forthcoming solo album, together with a couple from his solo back catalogue and of course one or two from the Boy on a Dolphin repertoire, both musicians were on fine form despite the Canadian showing signs of seasonal flu symptoms.  With a small set up of two keyboards, an acoustic guitar and a few bits of percussion, John and Lewis played a couple of intimate sets of basically stripped down versions of songs from their steadily growing repertoire including new songs “Living With It”, “This City”, “Frozen”, “Arrow” and “XL5”, some of which were available tonight on the new Frozen EP, an indication of what’s to come on the new album release due out in April 2011.  The new single “Deep and Blue”, which is currently Proper Distribution’s track of the week, was also performed with delicate precision.  “Concrete Oceans” recalls Reilly’s childhood home of Liverpool, once a bustling northern port, the Mersey now regretfully described in terms of ghost ships, eloquently delivered in this poignant song by one of the city’s sons.  As a songwriting team, John and Lewis have developed a highly productive symbiotic relationship, exemplified in songs such as the staggeringly beautiful “Wait for Me”.  It wasn’t all new material tonight though by any means, with the inclusion of a couple of songs from John’s debut solo album, the title track “Tea Cosy Hat” together with “Galway Bay” as well as Boy on a Dolphin’s “Life’s a Blast”.  Equally at home with modern standards such as Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” or jazz-inflected groovers like Jesse Winchester’s “Isn’t That So”, which featured a fine vocal by Lewis Nitikman together with a beautifully informed piano accompaniment, John is unafraid to venture into the realms of World Music with “Nou o N’Mazei”, the opening song from Boy on a Dolphin’s debut album WOords Inside, co-written with Ivory Coast percussionist Maurice Zou.  For the pure feel-good factor, Stephen Stills’ anthemic “Love the One You’re With” serves both as great sing-along chorus number as well as another indication of Reilly’s versatility as a singer.  Introduced as coming from an ‘underestimated and unappreciated artist’, or to be more precise, ‘a singer songwriter who doesn’t get the credit he deserves’, Reilly’s performance of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Nothing Rhymed” reminded the audience once again of a perfect example of fine songwriting.  Elton John was also represented with two songs, “Rocket Man”, which unbeknownst to the audience was simultaneously being murdered by a contestant on the X Factor and the lesser known “I Feel Like a Bullet (In the Gun of Robert Ford)”, both songs from a period of the superb songwriting, courtesy of the fruitful partnership of Elton John and Bernie Taupin.  With a double encore consisting of the Hoagy Carmichael/Stuart Gorrell standard “Georgia on My Mind”, quickly followed by a superb reading of John and Lewis’s joint composition “You’re Not Alone”, again destined for the new album, the two musicians completed a thoroughly entertaining and song-filled night with more than just a touch of class.