Live Review | The Greystones, Sheffield | Review by Allan Wilkinson
Andy Cutting confessed right from the start tonight that he doesn’t sing, going on to say “well I do, however I would rather you stay than leave”. The prospect then, for a night of instrumental melodeon tunes one after the other may under normal circumstances sound slightly daunting and in some cases that would be perfectly understandable. However, the melodeon in the hands of this particular musician, which he refers to as his ‘funny little machine’, provides a panoramic musical landscape with the ability to take the listener away to similar emotional places that songs do. Avoiding clever pyrotechnics, awkward and busy arrangements, the act of setting fire to his instrument or smashing it against the amp, despite being an honorary member of The Who, Andy Cutting instead sits alone onstage and delivers some of the most beautiful music you are likely to hear anywhere. With a string of highly successful concerts at The Boardwalk, the Bright Phoebus co-operative, namely Kit Bailey, Fay Hield, Lindsay Smith, Jon Boden and Martin Simpson, together with a mammoth list of supporters, has broadened its remit, setting up a monthly concert night at the former Highcliffe Hotel, now re-named The Greystones in the Greystones area of Sheffield, for what could potentially be the premier mid-week musical attraction for the months to come. Tonight, Nancy Kerr was delighted to perform her very first MC duties, whilst Andy Bell made sure everything sounded as good as it possibly could from his position behind the sound desk and Martin Simpson, one of our most respected musicians, was only too happy to look after tonight’s special guest’s CD shop as well as announcing the winners of the obligatory raffle. Such is the sense of comradeship amongst the growing Bright Phoebus community. Nancy started both sets off, first of all accompanying herself on the fiddle with the Northumberland courting song “Gan to the Kye”, which served as a timely antidote to another high profile courtship in the news “that we’re supposed to be interested in” and secondly with the unaccompanied “Morton Bay”. Introducing Andy Cutting to the stage, Nancy affectionately described the musician as both brilliant and ‘eerily youthful’. The sell out concert was populated by an audience who were respectfully silent through the music and deliberately noisy through the applause, which was predictably plentiful. Whilst Andy performed tunes from his back catalogue such as “Incontinental Mood” coupled with “Flat World”, as well as a selection from his recently released eponymously titled debut solo album, such as “Atherfield”, “CEG”, “Charlie/Come Back!” and “Granton Fish Bowl”, the audience divided themselves equally between those with furrowed brows, stroking their chins intent on watching Andy’s every move with great concentration together with those gleefully swaying along to the variety of infectious rhythms, to finally those reclining in their seats, eyes closed, totally relaxed, allowing the music to simply wash over them, temporarily leaving their worldly cares behind. In between each of the tunes, Andy delighted the audience with his stories, everything from his concerns about British bed and breakfasts, especially the cold toast racks and insufficient butter rations, to his beloved dogs and his children. There’s something warm and immediately engaging about Andy Cutting, who speaks to his audience in precisely the same way he might chat to a friend at the bar. This is also testament to the seemingly endless list of musician friends he’s had the pleasure to work with over the years. Andy’s recording credit list is enormous, the celebrated melodeon maestro, named Musician of the Year in 2008 by the BBC in their annual Folk Awards, having worked with everyone from Kate Rusby and June Tabor to Chris Wood and Martin Simpson, by way of the odd foray outside the usual folk sphere, working with both Sting and The Who. From the stage, Martin Simpson was delighted to announce some of the contenders in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards tonight, which had just been announced on Mike Harding’s weekly radio programme shortly before the concert. A couple of those nominees were present tonight, Andy once again nominated in the Musician of the Year category and Nancy Kerr nominated twice, firstly in the Best Song category for her song “Queen of Waters”, as well as in the Best Duo category along with husband James Fagan. Martin also announced that Bright Phoebus luminary Fay Hield, not present tonight, was also up for the Horizon award, the news of which was received with great enthusiasm. Towards the end of a stunning second set, which included the jaunty “Annaliese/There Are Angels”, together with “Oliver’s/Two Beers” and the two tunes “Potato/Theatre”, the names of which were inspired by the fact that Ian Carr finds the way Andy pronounces those two words hilarious, Andy invited Nancy Kerr up onstage for a set of tunes, “The Other Side of the World/Adder’s”. With a final solo encore, Andy chose to play the utterly beautiful “Old Light” and “The Abbess”, two tunes that coincidentally close the new album, bringing what could only be described as a stunning evening of extraordinary music to an end.