David Ford’s was the name on the posters at the Cluny in Newcastle and it was he who performed the longest set, despite his three band members being on stage just as long as he was, give or take one or two songs.
In an unexpected twist the two support acts, JP Ruggieri and Michele Stodart, were also members of David Ford’s band, along with drummer Phil. He and the rest of the group all provided back-up instrumentation to whichever musician was currently singing – a round-robin of musical turns if you will.
JP was first to the microphone, accompanied by Michele on bass, David on piano and Phil on drums. The American delivered a soulful set of laid back tunes. His vocals were clear and full of heart while his guitar playing was a joy to watch – particularly his slide solos that added a bluesy tinge to a couple of his songs.
Next, Michele swapped her bass for an acoustic guitar and moved to centre-stage, while the rest of the band members reprised their roles from JP’s set. The co-founder of The Magic Numbers delivered an uplifting set, complete with solid guitar playing, soaring vocals and a great deal of good nature. The audience hung on her every syllable and really took to her as she sang songs on topics from love and loss to drunk texting.
The man we were all there to see took over vocal duties for the band’s third set. After a high energy start, David slowed the pace of the set as he treated the audience to old favourites and tracks from his new album Animal Spirits – an album written after he had read up on macroeconomics and decided that should be the jumping off point for his new songs. You’d be forgiven for thinking that economic theory and policy might be too dry a topic for songs that you’re hoping to tap your foot to, but the new tracks really work – they’re a mix-bag of tempos that showcase the singer’s excellent vocal range and his lyrical ability to turn a dense topic into an accessible tune.
David also treated the audience to a couple of quiet ballads, swapping his Telecaster and centre-stage microphone to retake his seat behind the piano, his voice dripping in emotion through both. Artists have opined for years on the loneliness of the road and David dedicated his own wistful paean to home to his newborn baby daughter.
To bring things to a close, the bouncy bar-room rocker Pour a Little Poison (a number that recalled Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions-era folk revival mixed with Dylan-esque harmonica and guitar solos that could have been performed by ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons) had the audience dancing, while the last song of the night was a riotous cover of The Knack’s My Sharona – I couldn’t see anybody not singing along.
A few years back, David wrote a book entitled I Choose This: How to Nearly Make It in the Music Industry, and his method of touring and attracting people to shows by word-of-mouth, rather than using modern methods such as social media clearly works: I chatted to several people who had criss-crossed the North following him on various tours over the years. After tonight, I can certainly see why.