LIVE: Charlie Simpson @ Academy 2, Manchester (02/11/2011)

Date: November 2nd, 2011
Venue: Academy 2, Manchester
Support: Andrew Balkwill, Gabrielle Aplin, Dave McPherson


It’s taken him a while to shake off the association with Busted, but Charlie Simpson has finally done it. Having to cancel the Manchester show last week due to illness, there’s a lot of anticipation in the room tonight. As soon as the doors open, hundreds of eager fans all rush to the front just to secure a place on the barrier. On a side note, if you’re coming to a gig just to see the main act and then shout abuse towards all the support acts, kindly fuck off and die.

It’s not easy being the first guy on, but Andrew Balkwill (***) gives a solid and confident performance. His sound reminds me of the likes of Jamie Cullen or Toploader. Accompanied by his keyboard, he renditions the crowd with his jazzy/rag-time-esque songs like ‘Nothing About Your Girl’. Although he gets a decent response, his set is falling on stubborn ears unfortunately. He does, however, bring it back with the wonderful ‘She Knows It’, to which he gets everyone singing along.

Timidly taking to the stage, Gabrielle Aplin (*****) picks up a guitar and then just stuns the audience into silence. Opening with ‘Panic Chord’ her wonderful and powerful voice just made my jaw drop. Recognise the name? Well, you should, she did a sublime cover of ‘Fix You’ on the BBC Radio 1’s Live lounge, which she also played tonight too, (as well as an excellent cover of ‘Black And Gold’). Sounding a tad like Ellie Goulding (but arguably better), her set was simply perfect. She will be back in Manchester in March, so if you do anything in March, make sure you go see her.

The decent portion of the crowd is here for the living legend that is Dave McPherson (****), and with just 30 seconds into the set, you can see why. His voice is even more captivating live than it is on record as he serenades the crowd with the likes of ‘Winter: Hibernation’ and ‘Spring: Hearts Need Blood’. But it’s when he brings out the almighty ‘Turbulence’ that really wins over the crowd. From that point on, everyone pays attention and starts getting caught up in the music. Ending on a simply fantastic cover of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince‘s ‘Boom! Shake The Room’, Dave actually manages to get people moving (up until now, it was like a morgue). An epic end to an epic set.

Now, the moment that most people have been waiting a week for, the lights go down and a girlish scream tears apart the ears drums of everyone in the room. Donning his trademark cheeky grin, Charlie Simpson (****) appears onstage with a generously sized backing band, which includes a Mr. Andrew Balkwill on keyboards and a bassist that looks like a young Boris Johnson. Imagine if Keane and U2 had a baby and then raised it in the country, then that is what tonight sounded like, (I don’t mean that in a bad way though). At one moment, people were jigging along to the folksy sounds of ‘Hold On’ or ‘Thorns’, and then the next minute people were swaying along the pleasant rock vibes of the likes of ‘All At Once’. Never the less though, the crowd loved it.

To make up for postponing the show, Charlie brings Dave onstage for a duet of Silverchair song ‘Ana’s Song (Open Fire)’. This was the highlight of the show, without a doubt. Everyone’s in awe of them both and it’s such a beautiful acoustic cover of an amazing song. Ending on the crowd favourite, ‘Farmer And His Gun’, Charlie has outdone himself tonight, ending the tour on a high note. Let’s hope he keeps the solo work in mind for when Fightstar get back together.

Written by Andy Roberts