Heather Findlay

Thekla, Bristol

11 January 2020

I was standing at the front with my head eight inches away from a speaker stack, and yes my ears are reminding of that now, but it was worth it. Sometimes you want to be further back and take in the whole stage and get a better balanced sound, and sometimes you just have to stand six feet away from the best singer in the world.

And speaking of standing, this was my third standing gig in consecutive days and I can barely walk at the moment. But it was worth it. But enough of old-man problems. You just want me to tell you about the best concert I've ever seen.

But first, it's scandalous that I'm on the third review of the tour and I haven't mentioned the support band yet, the Hughes Taylor band. Because they are exceptional. Hughes Taylor is an American singer and guitarist (from the home of the Allman Brothers, he tells us, which might give you a clue), backed by bass and drums, and plays solid, old-fashioned blues rock ("Good Blues Fast" is the slogan on the t-shirt), the kind of music I didn't think young guys like this played any more. And he is just incredibly good. He's been slowly losing his voice over the course of the tour and I can hear him struggling tonight, but he gives it his best shot and it's still a great voice for the style of music—a typical blues vocal punctuated by long instrumental breaks, and it's in the band's instrumental jams that he really astonishes, because he is just a phenomenally talented guitar player. He goes down really well with Heather's audiences, but of course we're all old rock fans at heart and this is what we love. And it's an interesting pointer to the direction her music is taking at the moment, because five years ago you couldn't imagine a band like this opening for her, but tonight it's a perfect fit.

Thekla is a really interesting venue, because it's a boat moored in Bristol's docks, and from the outside it looks tiny but I'm convinced it's bigger on the inside because there's plenty of room for a decent size stage and a decent size audience.

And the sound is perfect, better than you'll typically get in a small club venue. Right at the front, you often get an uneven sound as everything will be balanced to sound good in the middle of the room, but I could perfectly distinguish every instrument. Better than London, where I couldn't hear the keyboard playing the flute solo in Winner, here the keys are loud and clear throughout, even when competing with three guitars. The band has seven, and occasionally eight or nine, members, and the rich instrumental and vocal possibilities this gives to the song arrangements are all captured perfectly by the crystal-clear sound. Honestly, I'm really impressed with this venue.

And the band is just amazing, I don't know how they can keep up this energy level, I'm exhausted just watching them dance through the rocking Unoriginal Sin / Wild White Horses combination that closes the show, and they all look like they're having more fun than anybody should be allowed to have when they're at work.

And Heather. I can't think of any new things to say about Heather. Her voice seems to be back to full strength after the threat of a cold, back to better than full strength, probably around 120% strength, which makes her approximately 650% better than any other singer in the world today. Firefly just kills me. I wish this tour wasn't ever going to end.