Heather Findlay Band / Odin Dragonfly

The Musician, Leicester

21 November 2012

I was told to keep my review short yesterday, so today I'm writing twice as much as usual. Ha, bet you're sorry now!

Tonight was my 300th gig. (By my slightly dodgy counting. But you can count them yourself: they're all here.) I reached that number not by seeing lots of bands but by seeing a few bands lots of times. I have seen Heather Findlay 60 times, and Angela Gordon 52 times. Both more than I have seen any other person on stage.

People still look at me oddly when I tell them I'm using my holiday to see the same band four times on one tour. People who don't do it will never understand—but there were plenty of people in The Musician tonight who will understand perfectly. Half of them are doing it themselves.

I do it because every gig is different. I do it because I got Waiting for the Snow in Newcastle, Which Wood? in Bilston, and Magnolia Half Moon tonight. Without seeing multiple gigs I would have missed two of them! What will they play in York on Friday? Nobody knows... not even Heather and Angela, I think.

And so far, I'm only talking about the support act!

Because I'm really in Leicester tonight to see the support band, Odin Dragonfly. (Heather Findlay, guitar and voice, Angela Gordon, piano, flute and voice—yes, for anybody that's a bit confused, Heather Findlay is in her own support band.)

Yes, of course I'm here to see the headline act. You don't come 200 miles only to see a support band play four songs. But I am seeing four gigs on this tour because those are the four that Odin Dragonfly are playing support for. I've waited five years to see Odin Dragonfly on stage again, I'm not about to waste any chances.

Due to time constraints, they only play four songs tonight (How I Feel today, Given Time, Web, Magnolia Half Moon). Am I disappointed?

No. They played Magnolia Half Moon, and I would have travelled 200 miles for that. Last night they played Which Wood? and I was happier than I could ever express.

I thought I would never see this band again. I am not disappointed. These two musicians could never disappoint me.

Ok. What haven’t I said? The venue.

It's my first time in The Musician in Leicester. It's a nice small venue, a good size for the crowd, good sound, decent size stage (not massive, but big enough for Heather to dance on), good stage lighting, and a bar tucked discretely in a corner far enough away that the noise didn't interrupt the show. The crowd seemed to be entirely die-hard fans and the atmosphere was brilliant.

At least, I think all these things are true. To be honest, I couldn't be certain because (for the first time this tour) I planted myself front and centre, up against the stage, three feet from Heather, where I wasn’t really aware of anything except... well... Heather.

Some gigs you just have to do that.

This gig it was a particularly good idea because when Angela's microphone cut out in the middle of Magnolia Half Moon, I still heard every word she sang and every note of the flute solo, unamplified, with perfect clarity. Best flute solo I have ever heard.

And that's why I go four gigs on one tour.

Second band on, The Raggy Anns, get a slightly longer set, six songs I think (the same set every night for them, though the jokes change a bit). Last week I think I said this guitar/vocal duo were quite good. I need to amend that to really good. Their tunes are so catchy it's ridiculous. I dare anyone to resist singing the choruses. And despite their self-deprecating humour, they project the feeling that they're really enjoying themselves, and the feeling is contagious.

Talking of musicians enjoying themselves, when the Heather Findlay Band come on stage Heather looks happier than anybody has any right to look when they're at "work". I don't see how it's possible, because the only way anyone could really be that happy is if they're standing in the audience of a Heather Findlay Band gig...

The entire band is superbly good. I think it's the best live band I've seen this year. Not just because of their considerable musical talent, but because they project such tremendous energy and excitement. When they rock they rock with the best of them, and when they slow it down there is so much beauty in the songs it will make you cry.

I was going to put the set list here, but I'm rubbish at remembering them. Still, I've seen them three times now, how hard can it be? So here are all the songs but not necessarily all in the right order:

Red Dust
Black Rain
Half a World
Another Life
Above the Blue
Bitterness Burnt
Caught in a Fold
(new song!)
Flowers for Guns
Yellow Time
Mona Lisa
Unoriginal Sin
Carpe Diem

When Stu Fletcher's bass amp overheated and the band was forced to stop while people ran around trying to fix it, Gaze was inserted as an impromptu number (it wasn't written on the set lists visible on the stage) to avoid an awkward silence. Chris Johnson played it on acoustic guitar and Heather sang it, while Simon Snaize added harmony on electric guitar. You can see the song was unrehearsed because Simon's eyes are on Chris throughout, as he's clearly working out what to play.

In fact, having heard the band three times now, I'm sure that Simon makes up new guitar parts every night. My original impression that he's less flashy than previous guitarist Dave Kilminster was wrong—after watching and listening closely from a few feet away, his playing is stunning and, crucially, fits the groove of every song perfectly, and has an amazing synergy with Chris Johnson's guitar sound. Add in Stu Fletcher's virtuoso bass playing (when he's not blowing up amps), and the ridiculously talented Alex Cromarty's endlessly inventive (and loud!) drumming, and the chemistry between all the band members... and I honestly believe this is the best live band in the world at the moment. I truly feel that.

I haven't described Heather. Because what is there left to say? Standing three feet away from me, looking beautiful and sounding more beautiful, dancing with an energy that exhausts me to watch, drumming through several songs (she plays drums now; drums are cool), and acting like the audience are old friends (I think most of them were), Heather is the perfect rock singer. Sixty gigs... and I haven't seen her anywhere near enough.

Help, running out of pages in my notebook. I don't even know what hour of the morning it is but I can't sleep because my brain is going da-da-da-da-da—da-da.

A while ago somebody pointed out to me that my reviews weren't really very good as reviews because they never say anything of substance beyond "X came on and played Y", and then gush about how great it all was. It bothered me, because I know it's true.

But that's because of who I write these reviews for. First and foremost, I write them for me. So in 300 gigs' time, I can read this and remember why this was the best concert I have ever seen.

As if I could forget even a moment of it.