SEAN TAYLOR + CASE HARDIN at POCKLINGTON ARTS CENTRE. 27/09/13
Staged in the cosy ‘studio’ part of the complex, this Friday evening gig proved breathtaking from the moment the first chord was struck until the very last bled into the ether. The room was packed, and there was no wonder when the likes of Case Hardin and Sean Taylor were set to take to the stage.
UK-based Case Hardin (named after a female character in the movie “God Is A Bullet”) delivered an intoxicating swirl of bluesy Americana, the band’s charismatic frontman Pete Gow taking to the stage first, allowing the other four members to strategically slide into place either side of him during the first song. Immediately, the way he looked, his singing voice, and the melancholic edge of the set’s opening acoustic-based melody put me in mind of Simone Felice, though the hard-riffing “Lullaby” put pay to such a comparison. Presenting a mixture of upbeat numbers and sadder, slower cuts from their acclaimed “PM” album, arguably the most unforgettable number came in the form of a song inspired by Gow’s time spent as a journalist in conflict zones. He was quick to remark about the way in which some army personnel are emotionally equipped to deal with all manner of heart-rending situations whilst fighting in countries such as Afghanistan, and yet they very often find it staggeringly difficult to come-to-terms with the breakdown of relationships back home. ‘It’s a tough listen, but I hope you enjoy it,’ he ruefully grinned as the other band members retreated to the edge of the stage… and it really was as tough a listen as promised, yet it was also incredibly beautiful and breathtakingly moving through being so painfully honest.
Kilburn-based Sean Taylor edged onto the low-slung stage twenty minutes later, fresh from a train ride up from London. Over the past few years, his name has rightfully been strung in lights across many a venue, his extraordinarily accomplished style of guitar-playing a sight to see as well as hear. Through his spellbinding music he weaves magic, sprinkling fairy-dust upon delicately finger-picked melodies. He commands a stage like few other performers, primarily because his talent on guitar leaves audiences lost for words as his fingers hop up and down the fret-board of his sleek acoustic guitar. Never have I once heard a bum note resonate whilst he’s been playing; he slips ‘into the zone’ and plays his heart out, and it’s a true pleasure to be in the same room as him as he loses himself in his music.
Day-tripping back into Pocklington in the same week that his new album – “Chase the Night” – had been released, Sean wisely played the album’s fantastic title track to huge fanfare, his live version far removed from the studio-take on the album which features a full band set-up. Indeed, many of the ten tracks on the album feature a multitude of musicians, thereby rendering his solo renditions of the same songs incredibly different in pace and texture. Sean’s also well-known for his wit which couldn’t be any more self-deprecating if he shot himself down come the end of each song. In this modern age where Ego rules many a person’s world, it’s beyond refreshing to encounter somebody so young and so talented who somehow remains as modest and as grounded as can be.
“Perfect Candlelight” sounded divine, acting as the truest kind of love song, plastered with not a single gimmick, just genuinely heartfelt sentiments. “Hold On” and “Stand Up” proved as exquisite as each other. “Calcutta Grove”, meanwhile, allowed the bewitching nature of Sean’s music to mosey off along an even more psychedelic avenue of brilliance.
Come the end of his set, he was clapped into performing an encore even before he’d had chance to hop off-stage. Divulging his love for hit American TV series “The Wire”, he loped into the show’s title track, leaving all those in attendance as spellbound as when he’d first slid onto the stage more than ninety minutes beforehand. To me, it seems simple: to hear Sean Taylor is to love him, for his otherworldly talent is achingly tangible in every note he enlivens.