It was a Sunday evening and I was still feeling a little bit delicate after covering the Craigie Hill Music Festival the night before and I was just in the right mood for some chilled-out acoustic melodies from singer-songwriter Ben Maggs. Ben had added a second August date at the Salutation Hotel in Perth after receiving such a great reception and selling out the first. My mum is always up for a gig so we headed down to the venue and took our seats at the front. As we strike up a conversation with the couple sitting next to us it becomes clear that Mr. Maggs inspires a great deal of devotion amongst his fans. Vanessa and Paul Manning have seen him three times already and for tonights show have come all the way from Whitley Bay. It would be understatement to say that Vanessa was looking forward to seeing him again tonight.
Ben takes the stage in rainbow socks (no shoes), white shirt, tweed waistcoat and ripped jeans with his slightly greying long curly hair he has a wee bit of a look of Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips. As the first song Let in the Light starts up it becomes clear that his voice is pretty special it has a spine-tingling Jeff Buckley quality to it and he has no fear in going for the high notes, confident in its abilities. It is on the second song Ladies and Gentleman that Ben's looper pedal first comes into play. Basically it is a device that allows him to layer up samples of his guitar (including tapping out a beat) and vocals to create a bigger sound and then sing and play along with himself. This song uses it to great effect allow to perform a great acoustic guitar solo along with the backing. He uses the pedal again a couple of songs later on My, My, My this time building the song from scratch and singing achingly beautiful harmonies with himself.
This guy isn't just a one trick pony though and he has plenty other weapons in his musical arsenal. Tawny Owl see's some pretty impressive finger picking as does the last song before the interval Two White Butterflies which he precedes with a story all about how he prevented a seagull from murdering a goose.
During the interval I take a comfort break and come back to find my mother deep in conversation with Ben. It turns out, weirdly, that they are discussing stagecraft and my mum is giving some tips! She is so impressed with the show so far that she goes all in and buys both his albums. As well as being one of the best singers and acoustic guitarists I've seen since doing this job he also has phenomenal people skills!
The second half continues in the same vein of finely honed songwriting and raw but polished performanceThe second half continues in the same vein of finely honed songwriting and raw but polished performance. Man on the Moon is a really touching song that Ben completed after hearing of the death of a friend. It tells of a dream he had and I was loving the line "I had a conversation with the man on the moon and you know he's a pretty nice guy". The song Red Fedora sees Ben don a Red Fedora and see's the audience keeping time with a steady clap (I love audience participation) and The Traveller's Song sees him bring out the cahon. The cahon is a box-like percussion instrument that Ben plays with a bass pedal, using his other foot to trigger a tambourine that he has strapped to it. He really gets a pumping bass sound and it's a really rocking and rousing song, definetely a highlight.
The inevitable encore (he was going down like gang-busters) saw him try a new song sparks which had a lovely lullabye quality before we got a reprise of Ladies & Gentleman this time with the chance for the audience to sing the vocal line from the coda and it's a life-affirming sentiment. Altogether now "Today, I love this life. Everyday, beautiful life. I get high on life, round to the midnight hour."
Reviewer Helen MacKinnon went along to the dress rehearsal of Perth Amateur Operatic Society's production of Sister Act.
April 12th Thursday 2018
Colin reviews local Perthshire band Dead Fiction new music single in this Small City Review.
April 9th Monday 2018
Colin heads to the Green Hotel for a night of Bobby!
April 2nd Monday 2018