Bands can cover one another’s mistakes, and to make up for each member’s shortcomings. So, nowadays it is pretty rare to see a solo musician with one instrument get up on a stage and do a whole set. It takes guts to be confident enough in your own capabilities, but Kris Drever pulls it off time and time again. Winner of BBC Radio 2 Folk Singer of The Year 2017 and Best Original Track at the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Kris Drever returned to The Brewery to give another stunning performance.
I’ll be honest; for the first half of his set, I thought he was either trying out a new, very raw sound, or the sound engineers were having a bad day. It turns out he’d just forgotten to plug his guitar in, and from this point on, the sound quality improved dramatically. But, as it was the first night of his new tour, I think he can be forgiven. Since his last tour, his stage presence has significantly improved, Drever made his stories engaging and filled the once awkward silences with anecdotes and accounts. Plus, with the audience’s humoured reaction, ’I Didn’t Try Hard Enough’ is certifiably the best break-up song. It was also good to see that some of his older tracks and covers are being revisited and revived. His cover of ‘The Call and The Answer’ is more soulful and up-tempo than his earlier recorded version; it’s a beautiful song made more so by a well-arranged version. ‘Capernaum’ was a particular favourite of mine, as the live version showcased Drever’s talent in transposing the various layers of his recording to a single guitar. He didn’t need loop pedals or technology to create interesting textures in this catchy song.
A special mention has to go to the support act, Hannah Reed. She has a gorgeous transatlantic quality to her voice, in a great mixture of folk and blues. Her adaptation of a Robert Louis Stevenson poem into ‘Moorland Bare’ showed an in-depth understanding of the text and lyricism to her composition style. ‘Way Out I’ll Wander’ demonstrated a well-handled ambitious use of harmony, a keen ability to write songs and a developing stage presence in the song’s introduction. With the recent release of her debut album, Hannah Reed is one to watch. I reckon that after another two solo albums; she’ll be there.
I caught a quick word with Kris after the gig: ’The tour is going really well so far. It’s only the first night, but then there’s been no bad gigs so far! And it’s always nice to be back at the Brewery.’
Overall, it looks like all bodes well for Kris Drever’s new tour, providing he remembers to plug in his guitar at the start of each gig! He has well-composed songs, he can sing, and he can play all by himself. He doesn’t need a band to back him up; he can do it all by himself. And, more importantly, he can do it well.