Friday 1 March 2024

John Bramwell And The Full Harmonic Convergence / Harriet Bradshaw - Manchester Stoller Hall - 29th February 2024

John Bramwell And The Full Harmonic Convergence took to the resplendent stage of The Stoller Hall in Manchester on Thursday night to celebrate the release of John's second solo album The Light Fantastic. The five-piece performed the majority of the album alongside tracks from John's debut Leave Alone The Empty Spaces and a few selected nuggets from his I Am Kloot days to a respectful and engrossed audience. Support came from the Harmonic Convergence's own Harriet Bradshaw with tracks from her debut solo releases.

John's introduction to Harriet before she takes the stage says everything that needs saying. He describes her as the most talented musician he knows and that's a fine compliment from a man who has graced stages with some of the country's most celebrated musicians over the years. Following Harriet's journey from playing cello on a few tracks at a show in Hebden Bridge through to last year's eponymous solo album and its follow-up EP has seen her blossom as a musician. The visible nerves of performing on her own have disappeared now and she confidently takes on one of Manchester's hidden gem music spaces and an appreciative crowd.

She starts on guitar with her debut single Mermaids And Pondskaters and the debut album's Yourself And Nobody Else. Whether she's singing about her own experiences or painting vivid pictures from her love of poetry and literature, the lyrical attention to detail is fascinating and they're delivered with a voice that's soft, delicate and yet still evokes imagery of the stories it is telling. The impact is even starker when she sits at the piano for Stone Cold and two tracks from her recent EP Eyes At Two Sides Of My Head and Love Is A Basket. She returns to the guitar for Rotten Apples, a new song that shows she's continuing to create and recount stories.  Those who braved the long bar queues rather than catching the support very much missed out.

John's in ebuillent mood as he celebrates the belated release of The Light Fantastic, an album that's been half a decade in the making and which many of the die-hards know by heart before its release by dint of multiple Full Harmonic Convergence shows where these songs have usurped those from his I Am Kloot days. He plays with the audience behind him in the choir seats, laughing at references to his "nice arse" from one gentleman, whilst being as self-deprecating as ever, this time about his long flowing locks resembling a Muppets character before finally giving in and borrowing a hair band from a woman in the crowd. The chemistry between the five of them is evident and the tight bond of friendship as well as musical connection is very clear right from the start as Dave, Harriet and Andy harmonise with him in the gorgeous opener World Full Of Flowers right through to the collective bows as they finish the night with Proof.

Pretty much the whole set is taken from The Light Fantastic and its predecessor Leave Alone The Empty Spaces with only a few Kloot songs - I Still Do, The Same Deep Water As Me, Bullets, 86 TVs, Northern Skies and Proof - making an appearance and those are songs that very much fit in with the musical ethos of The Full Harmonic Convergence. The rich melodies, delightful harmonies and heartfelt storytelling are a joy to behold and the immaculate sound in The Stoller Hall allows all the intricate beauty of them to be heard.  Harriet's cello provides a counterpoint to John and Dave Fidler's guitars, Andy Fidler's cahon and Alan Lowles' keyboards, imbuing the songs with drama and tension that pierce through the reverent atmosphere in the room. The songs from Leave Alone The Empty Spaces, a sparser record on vinyl than its successor, are given the same treatment as those songs and the likes of Time's Arrow and From The Shore benefit from the broader more expansive sound that the five of them bring.

At the core of it all those is John. His world-weary but obtusely positive outlook on life shines through in the songs, but also in his between-song chat, recycling all his favourite one-liners that make him and six hundred people laugh even though the majority can probably finish the sentence for him. That's the magic of John Harold Arnold Bramwell though, take away the stage and he's one of us, just with the gift of articulation through music, and words in the spoken-word Nobody Left But You, as confused as the rest of us about the state of the world and life's relentless grind. What he does is bring people together and make them feel that, for ninety minutes at least, everything might not be as bad as it looks.

The Full Harmonic Convergence played World Full Of Flowers, The Element of Truth, From The Shore, I Still Do, The Light Fantastic, Sky Full Of Thunder And Lightning, It's Just You, I Am The Sky, Days Go By, Here It Comes, Leave No Traces, Bullets, Who Is Anybody Anyway, Nobody Left But You, Time's Arrow, 86 TVs, The Same Deep Water As Me, Sat Beneath The Lightning Tree, Northern Skies, Before The Lights Went Out, Meet Me At The Station and Proof.

John Bramwell plays Full Harmonic Trio shows at Oldham Shure Studios (March 1), Altrincham Bowdon Rooms (2), Cardiff Acapella Studios (14), Ludlow Assembly Rooms (15), Falmouth The Cornish Bank (21), Totnes The Barrel House Ballroom (22), Carlisle Old Fire Station (27), Glasgow St Luke's (28), Twyford St Mary's Church (April 5), Corsham Pound Arts Centre (6), Tunbridge Wells Forum (11), Norwich Waterfront (12), Oxford United Reform Church (19), Aldershot West End Centre (20), Shrewsbury Cathedral (25), Birmingham St Paul's Church (27), Chester St Mary's Creative Space (28), Nottingham Metronome (May 9), Dublin The Grand Social (11), Burton On Trent The Ropewalk (17), Lancaster Grand (24), Cardigan Mwldan (31), Bath Rondo Theatre (June 1), Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room (7) and Newcastle Cluny (8).

John Bramwell's website can be found here.  He is also on Twitter and Facebook.

The Light Fantastic can be ordered here.

Harriet Bradshaw's website can be found here and she is on Facebook and Twitter. The album is available on her Bandcamp on digital, CD and vinyl.


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