Reviewed by Kev McVeigh
November’s Spotlight was the busiest for some time, in part due to active promotion by one performer at least, and partly I think due to the consistent strength of the bill in recent months. It is obviously great to see new faces come to support a friend, and the hope is always that some will return on subsequent occasions. Unfortunately too many depart as soon as their favourite has performed, often missing a large part of the event.
Compere Simon Baker compared tonight’s line-up favourably to ITV’s competition, claiming more celebrities and none of them wanted ‘out of here!’ First up however was the usual assorted open-mic’ers, at least two making their Spotlight debuts. These slots often lead to full sets at later events but are also used by artists developing or experimenting with new ideas. This time around there were opportunities for the impressive stand-up of Sid (‘Blackpool, it’s like Morecambe without the dungarees and banjos’) and the weirdo character comedy of Reginald Winters. The latter clearly a work in progress, the former confident and assured, but both generating plenty of laughter. In between came Spotlight regular Mark Charlesworth’s broodier poems, dark reflections on life, the picaresque opener Angela Martin and the snappier verses of Lynette McKone. As ever Spotlight gave a warm response to all, and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see any of them on that stage again soon.
Mollie Baxter will hopefully excuse me referring to her as a veteran, a point demonstrated by her resurrecting a 10 year old song. It was two newer songs that most impressed, particularly opener ‘She is Dragon.’ Wordy literate lyricists such as Mollie often fail to receive due credit for their musicianship. So let’s be clear, Mollie Baxter is as talented a guitar player as she is a wordsmith, and ‘She Is Dragon’ demonstrates this with delicate melody and powerful chording.
Lunecy contributor Carla Scarano D’Antonio was next up and charmed with her evocative use of her second language to convey life in Rome and Lancaster in poetic forms. Her richly accented voice adds to the emotional depth she achieves from apparent simplicity.
A few seemed to anticipate a break next, thus missing part of Tony Walsh’s set. If you’ve seen Tony before (such as at his barnstorming Totally Wired appearance) you’ll know to expect rapid, flowing, beat delivery of sharp yet tender looks at lifes less celebrated areas. His poems are packed with clever wordplay, quickfire alliteration, assonance and rhyme combined with a dream like quality of consecutive non-sequiturs (a Walsh-like phrase in itself.)
Suitably refreshed from this, Jim Turner led us up a mountain or two. Many of his poems take inspiration and setting from trips to the far north of Scotland, but whilst maintaining a descriptive integrity Turner achieves the happy knack of humanizing the landscape. So wild terrain echoes emotion, each metaphorically commenting on the other without obvious contrivance.
Brindley Hallam Dennis stepped to the mic and became Kowalski. An outspoken, crotchety, New Yorker with a fund of tales of escapades with Miriam ‘she’s my old lady’. Dennis’ glorious performance brought Kowalski truly and uproariously alive, and I’d love to hear more.
Finally music once more, Orchestre DC Dancette’s Steve Lewis performing solo. Over the course of half a dozen songs with ‘found lyrics’ he revealed a fine vocal range, though he mainly worked in a breathy deeper tone. The songs were gently humorous and well played, though I’d have liked more of the ‘oomph’ an 8 piece band provides on a couple of them.
Lewis rounded off another good night at Spotlight, topping off a well-balanced bill (something that hasn’t always been the case). And those who stayed the distance surely had an excellent evening’s entertainment.
There are another thirty or more clips from the night to be seen at Norman Hadley’s youtube channel.