Chris While and Julie Matthews/Boo Hewerdine

Live Review | Cast, Doncaster | Review and Photos by Allan Wilkinson

One of the joys in music, is when you’re given the rare opportunity to listen to a bunch of brand new songs, carefully absorbing each word in the accompanying lyric sheet with your inquisitive forefinger running along each line, whilst discovering an abundance of meanings and nuances – and all a good few weeks before hearing those songs fall from the lips of those who wrote them, right before your eyes.  Revolution Calls, the new album by Chris While and Julie Matthews, is a case in point and tonight’s performance at the CAST Theatre in Doncaster was such an occasion. Knowing these songs intimately before their live debut is indeed a rare treat and more so in the hands of these two performers; Chris and Julie dedicated a lot of time and effort to the recording of their new record and it really does show.

Released in celebration of twenty-five years together as one of the UKs most popular duos, the album’s title song is a call for action amidst these frustrating and anger-ridden times, which immediately gets to the point and serves as an anthem for change. Julie’s well-traveled guitar even serves as an axe ready for battle.  There’s no blood, no fatalities, no physical violence, just a passionate message, which perhaps contradicts the old adage that action speaks louder than words. These words came to us loud and clear and with absolutely no ambiguity whatsoever.

Singer songwriters both, Chris and Julie shared their new songs before a packed ‘second space’ audience in Doncaster, this being the duo’s second show in what promises to be a packed month’s worth of gigs around the country. Chris’s gorgeous “Long Lost Friend” and the lilting “The House Upon the Hill” were both very much present in the set, together with Julie’s uplifting “Stardust” and the achingly beautiful “Seven Seconds”, here entrusted to her pal to deliver in a voice like no other. Older songs also made an appearance, notably the still poignant “Single Act of Kindness” and the timeless “Rock of Gelt”, though possibly the most poignant moment of the evening, was Julie’s “Coming Out”, which was eloquently prefaced with a memory of perhaps the most difficult moment of her life, the backdrop being the Dark Peak and those seven hills of Sheffield. When you fall in love with a certain song, there’s no better reward than to hear it performed less than half a dozen feet from you and by a familiar voice that you instinctively trust; there couldn’t have been a single soul in the venue unmoved by this song. 

Just three weeks on from the last double header at this venue, there was one notable difference.  For Bob Fox and Tom McConville, the mid September heat still warmed our ankles along Thorne Road as speckles of sunshine filtered through the trees within the grounds of Christ Church and onto Sir Nigel Gresley Square. Barely three weeks on and an Autumn chill has descended upon the town, with dusk arriving even before Emmerdale had the chance to start. This is how quickly the seasons change outside, yet on the inside of this theatre, the audience immediately felt the warmth of a familiar Cambridge-born, now Glasgow-based friend. Boo Hewerdine’s memorable songs are peppered with a very distinctive dry humour. Thanking compere Jonti Willis for getting his name right, the singer reminded himself of the times “they got it wrong”, “Eight O’Clock Hewerdine” being perhaps the most lamentable (or perhaps he was joking!).

Boo is a master of storytelling and such songs as “Dragonflies” a song responsible for many tattoos and funeral tears, he claims, “Harvest Gypsies” a song he wrote for Kris Drever and the enduring “Bell, Book and Candle”, played during a memorable, if unfortunate scene from an episode of the aforementioned Emmerdale, were all testament to that. With “Patience of Angels” coming out to play just four songs into the set, we instinctively knew that the night would fly by at an extraordinary pace and we weren’t mistaken on that score. Boo was on his best behaviour as well as on his best form throughout his hour-long set and Chris and Julie provided the proverbial cherry on top. 

See Northern Sky’s review of Chris and Julie’s Revolution Calls here.