Thursday 26 December 2019

Jake Fletcher - Manchester Night People - 23rd December 2019

Jake Fletcher launched his self-titled debut album on Monday with a show at Manchester's Night People. Playing most of the album and new material he's already written for its follow-up accompanied by Adrian on keyboards / organ and Ben on drums, he delighted a passionate hometown crowd with a set that demonstrated his many talents.

Jake Fletcher is a musician's musician. He can turn his hand to almost anything, as evidenced by the fact that he pretty much does everything on his debut album and never once does it feel like someone filling in for a specialist in that field. He's happy to step in as a session musician, as he has done for the likes of The Specials and PP Arnold or to ply his trade providing high-end covers sets for regular slots around the North West, and seems shy of taking the limelight himself  preferring to let his music do his talking for him. But with the release of his album, he has to take centre stage, starting with tonight's show, and, surprise surprise, he's a natural at that too.

As you'd expect from such a perfectionist, he's got the best musicians to play with too. Adrian Gautrey is one of the most under-rated musicians in town, except by those who play with him, he's a master of the keys and pedals and throughout the night takes these songs to a new level, lifting them in just the right places whilst allowing the inherent beauty and craftsmanship of the songs to shine through. Ben Gonzalez behind the sticks is tasked with holding everything together as the other two let their instincts and the songs bloom and does more than that, driving them along, adding energy and power to the faster songs and controlling the pace and direction of the slower numbers in the set.

The set starts with the album's opening track No One Talks which rails against the many failings of the political system - focusing for once on the way the whole thing is structured to fail the people who most need it to work for them rather than drawing down party lines. P45 moves on to being tied to a mundane 9 to 5 job and wanting to escape and do, well do what he's doing right now where there's a passion for it you can't find stuck behind a desk. Jake laughs as he tells us he's played a few wrong notes in the first couple of songs, because no one else other than he has noticed.

Following a passionate Fairwellfare System, Cover In A Storm and Feels So Wrong bring the pace down somewhat, the former clearly a crowd favourite as those at the front mouth along every word of this song about protection whilst the latter is more introverted and is even more impactful with the man singing the words in front of you than they are on the album. Duracell is similarly introverted, the battery reference linked to continuing to go on when others might have stopped, turning into what Jake laughingly describes as "mental prog rock" as the three of them let loose.

People Are No Longer Human gives us more of the articulate social / political commentary that Jake does so well, the dehumanisation of debate, the split into camps of black or white with nothing in the middle and the way people are led to one or the other. It's followed by a series of new songs, Young, Gifted and Hopeless and Pinnacle Of Cynical being the standouts of them as he previews what might be half of album two on the day album one is finally released to the world.

The main set ends on the album's closing track I Might Feel Better, a reflective track where Jake's live vocal, as it does throughout, adds gravitas and a real sense of genuine purpose to the words. Power Never Changes completes the main set, once again railing against the injustice of politics, the corruption of power and the way it almost doesn't matter who's in charge because they all fall into the same traps.

The encore starts with a cover of Joni Mitchell's The River, an interpretation that both retains much of the intimacy of the original, but which Jake also ensures has his own indelible mark on it. Daltry Street, the song PP Arnold covered on her recent album, follows to the delight of the audience who've fallen for this song several years ago and consider it to be one of his very best. They're persuaded to do one more song as they try to depart the stage and decide on the spot to cover Stevie Wonder's Living In The City and pull it off in some style as you'd expect from a trio of this calibre.

As people head off into the night to start the Christmas period with Jake's CD in their hand, they've witnessed an evening with one of the city's most underappreciated songwriters and musicians, one who's refused to play the games needed to make the real breakthrough, whose influences add shade to his work rather than provide the outline.

Jake Fletcher is on Facebook and Twitter.

The album is out now and is available on CD from Jake's store.

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