Words by Althea Patterson, pics by Lucy Heath
Breezing into the Symphony Hall Café Bar drenched and frozen as the band tuned up with ‘New York City Rain’, felt very appropriate. But I soon forgot my worries as an abundance of children skipped around their parent’s feet and the band supped pints of bitter whilst chatting with friends. It was relaxed and calm, like a family reunion.
Looking like a flat-capped and fresh eyed Joe Cocker, Chris Tye bopped on stage and introduced his band before getting straight to business. ‘Walking In the Sun’, a certain nod to the British obsession with weather, was an easy bluegrass tinged harmonious track that set the tone nicely. Two little girls in the audience swirled and danced to ‘Breakdown’; both them and the song emphasised by the myriad of Christmas lights shining in from outside.
Tye’s vocals were further complimented by the accompaniment of his band mate, a woman who’s name I failed to catch, but together their voices swam with rich ease. ‘What more Can I Say’ was a beautiful example of soft vocal synergy.
After throwing in a funkier version of ‘Letter to Hermionie’, one I’m sure The Thin White Duke would be happy with, Tye’s pianist, Simon Davis, also had a moment in the spotlight with the self penned ‘Last Man’. It struck that I was in the presence of real arrangers; this band were stuffed with talent, who wrote and performed songs that evoked both walking through hip high grass on a summer’s day to skating and swooshing on ice in winter. . . *goes a bit wistful*
But for an intimate band, who’s voices express so candidly, you don’t want them punctuated with other peoples conversations and loud mobile phone ring tones. Twice the loudness of the venue almost drowned out Tye’s voice on ‘The Paper Plane’, which he performed as encore. These noisy intrusions were the only downside of the evening; one that showed off a talented singer, composer and honorary Brummie.
Chris Tye deserves a better audience, perhaps in my garden on a hot summers day with a few friends and a few more cold bottles – where I could happily listen to him sing all day. But only if all mobiles are turned down a notch or three thousand.
For more on Chris Tye, visit http://christye.co.uk
For more on the Folk for Free events, held in partnership with the Moseley Folk Festival, visit http://www.thsh.co.uk/tour-dates/folk-for-free
For more events at the Town & Symphony Hall, visit http://www.thsh.co.uk