The Round at The Dukes might just be Lancaster’s best venue, even before Stephen Hudson decorates it with giant fluffy clouds, and for Barnbox it’s fairly full, which is great to see.
On the floor, Jo Gillot picks her way delicately through her wry vignettes of hesitancy and abstraction. She has a voice that soars and drops in just the right places, and her guitar playing is equally fine. Her repertoire contains at least three genuine pop gems: Bit Of Zen, with its chirpy, walking guitar line, the aptly named Spectacular and my personal favourite, the dark yet winsome Staple You.
From sweet folk pop to How’s My pop’s wordy Dylan if he’d grown up in North Manchester in the early 80s pre-baggy indie. Such a shame about the rubbish name, because when they reach for that widescreen sound to match Andy’s expansive lyrics they tap into a vein of 60s/80s amalgam worked successfully by the likes of The Coral. Perhaps all they need is that one killer song to step up from good to great.
I’ll be frank, one thing I really don’t get about gigs like this is the urge to have the comedy compere perform. James Knight didn’t make me laugh and I saw a few other grimaces around the room at his cod-rap pastiches.
And then there was Kriss Foster, about whom, etc. Some hail Kriss as comedy genius, but I wouldn’t go that far. I actually enjoyed some of his material tonight, far more than the previous time I saw him. (A night Kriss admits wasn’t one of his best.) I’m puzzled though by parts of his act. He came on in a leopard outfit, but then didn’t really take that concept anywhere, barely alluding to it at all. It was as though he was trying too hard, which he really didn’t need to do. Songs like She Fell Through the Gap and particularly the VIMTO Song use their apparent gaucherie to develop an amusing charm without gimmicks.
Each time I see Uncle Jeff I like them more. Their Americana tinges get catchier and more effective without blatant hooks. A neat trick of clever songwriting aided by being tight yet never dry as a band. Midway through the set the floor is thronged with frenetic dancing as Uncle Jeff subtly enhanced the tempo and Stephen’s vocals take on a grandiose Mike Scott fervour. On this form Uncle Jeff are as good as any band in town and Barnbox a great night out.