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A review of...
Meilyr Jones live at The Cluny 2, Newcastle
Newcastle on a Bank Holiday Monday night. Not the most conducive environment for a rock 'n roll show. There's a collective tiredness emitting from the audience before the band come on, and I'm no exception having spent the weekend freezing my bones off in a tent and attending a "kids Glastonbury" near Leeds, which seems to be getting some unwanted press as the worst festival in the world (it wasn't that bad for the record, I got to see Mr Bloom's mind-blowing live show). The subdued pre-gig atmosphere is perhaps not helped by the absence of a support act (they "didn't show up" apparently) and that Bank Holiday fug doesn't appear to be clearing even as Meilyr Jones and his band approach the small Cluny 2 stage. However, as they rip into their first song, the feelgood "How To Recognise a Work of Art", there's an almost coherent gasp from the audience. Personally, I'm taken aback by the sheer energy of Jones and his four super talented band members. The lanky front-man is instantly appealing, owning the room from the very first syllable that comes from his mouth, and dancing around like it's Mardi Gras rather than a just a mardy monday. It's hard to believe that someone can bring so much positivity to a room like this but Jones and his band have it in shovels and the crowd instantly warm to them.
Before the gig I wondered how a touring band with limited resources could pull off some of the tracks on Jones' excellent and ambitious debut album 2013, but I hadn't banked on the fact that each member of this pose seems capable of playing at least two instruments, sometimes simultaneously (most impressive being a drummer - Gwion Llywelyn - who can play a flugelhorn whilst keeping an above-competent beat). This is a band that also includes Euan Hinshelwood (aka Younghusband), a supergroup for people that like good music and one that swaps instruments at will and seem to relish doing so. The songs are still quite different from their album versions (it's always good to hear songs in a different light), but there's an immense depth to these arrangements that defies the number of personnel on stage. We also get dual violins, sax, bongos and piano along with the more traditional rock band staples. Occasionally they make use of the intimate surroundings by turning the amps off completely and serenading the audience with a pure acoustic performance (as on show closer "Be Soft"), but the lasting memory from the show will be the more pounding numbers. Occasional the band are so super talented and ferocious, I'm drawn to compare them to The Beach Boys, more specifically those grainy early clips that we now have to make do with watching on YouTube. But this is a band that can switch between said intensity ("Strange Emotional") and bittersweet Scott 3-esque ballads ("Rome", "Refugees") like they are flicking a switch. It's quite a sight to behold. Jones in particular is quite the front-man, engaging, funny and animated, often he seems like the conductor of his own orchestra.
I'm generally not surprised that bands I like play in small venues, but with Meilyr Jones it seems like a genuine travesty. These are big songs that deserve to be heard by big audiences, but tonight I'm glad it's intimate, and I'm glad we got to see it.
Edit - 4/5/16 - Thanks to @ioelgem on Twitter for pointing out that Gwion Llywelyn is the very talented drummer in the band, not Daniel Bradley as previously reported. Google is not your friend.