It may come as a bit of a shock to some readers but sometimes I go to gigs without Colin. Sometimes my gig buddy is my dad – Colin is always invited but doesn’t always fancy it – particularly if the gig is in Milton Keynes (my hometown and where Papa Prew lives) and is more along the lines of folk and/or acoustic-based music. That was the case on Thursday night when Gaz Brookfield, self-proclaimed solo acoustic guy, would be making his debut appearance in Milton Keynes at the wonderful Craufurd Arms. We’ve seen him play locally before, both times at Bedford Esquires, and are always up for seeing him again. He’s rather good!
Support on the night came from Bedford-based Rhys Kirkman, who also supported Gaz Brookfield in Bedford last time around, and Nick Parker, who was along for the ride for the whole UK tour. Unfortunately, due to struggling to find somewhere close to the Craufurd Arms to park, we ended up arriving, into a half full venue, after Rhys had started his set – it also turns out doors at 8pm actually meant music starts at 8pm. Luckily we only missed a couple of songs. What we did hear was just as good as I remember from last time around. Catchy and, for the most part, upbeat songs with a great storytelling element to them. The highlight of his set would have to be the closing song, The Tallest Man In The Pub – a slightly amusing yet genuine tale about being tall. Not something I can relate to but a good song nonetheless!
Given that all three artist on the bill were ‘solo acoustic guys’ the change over period between acts wasn’t very long – never a bad thing (unless you’re in the queue for the bar I guess… that’s your loss). So, soon Nick Parker was taking to the stage. Neither myself or my dad had heard of Nick Parker before but I assumed that, sandwiched between Rhys and Gaz on this bill, I would like him. It wasn’t long before that assumption was proved correct. This was quite a performance with plenty of unexpected added extras to keep the audience attentive without things turning gimmicky. Nick’s set featured audience participation in the form of: loud speaker mobile phones making whirring sounds that wouldn’t be out of place on a Radiohead record, lyric sheet handouts that encouraged the ladies and gents of the audience to sing different parts of a really sweet love song and German signs spelling out the chorus to another song about how the British apologise too much. It really made me want to listen to him again and that’s exactly what I did, the next morning.
This run of tour dates was the second part of the I Know My Place, Gaz’s fourth album, tour – the first set of dates was back in the spring, before ‘festival season’. Gaz referred to I Know My Place as being his ‘new’ album but of course we’ve all been listening to it for almost a year. This certainly showed as the Craufurd Arms crowd was singing along enthusiastically to all of the songs – new and old. The venue was reasonably well packed out as well. I’m always a bit sceptical about how popular a lot of the more local shows that I go to will be but Gaz Brookfield is certainly an artist who draws in a crowd. Particularly as he’d never actually played in Milton Keynes before, as a support or otherwise. A Gaz Brookfield show is filled with great anecdotes about each song and about life on the road as a full time musician – the ironically titled It’s All So Rock And Roll, for example, plus songs about his unreliable vehicles, Cursed and Ode To Ozzy (the beloved old van). He’s a very down to earth person and I think that’s the reason why he has such dedicated fans, he just writes great and relatable songs. Plus they convey wonderfully into a live setting.
My absolute favourite song from the last album is titled I’ve Paid My Money which is about those people at gigs that we all hate who stand near the front and then talk through the artist’s performance or yell stuff at the person or people on stage, all while you’re standing there trying to listen. It’s more apparent at acoustic-based shows and so it is something Gaz Brookfield has had to deal with time and time again. When he played the song in Bedford last time around, there were people talking through his set which was annoyingly apt. However, in Milton Keynes the crowd was a lot more respectful and if mouths were open it was because they were singing along. I don’t want to appear bias to my hometown over my currently-residing-in town but gigs in Milton Keynes are always better than gigs in Bedford. That’s partly down to The Craufurd Arms (although the town’s other main music venue, MK11, is pretty darn good too) being such an awesome venue. Both Gaz and Nick said as much themselves, particularly commenting on the sound set up and the brilliant hospitality they received. It makes me proud to be from Milton Keynes. I love The Craufurd Arms.
Other highlights of the set included Land Pirate’s Life, The Diabetes Blues (parts 1 and 2), Be The Bigger Man and a special rendition of Cornish Fishing Town, a song that has only been played live two times before and featured Nick Parker on the mandolin. Although Gaz Brookfield is a self-proclaimed solo acoustic guy, much of his more recent recorded material features a full band so it was great to get a little taster of full band Gaz Brookfield. He and his Company Of Thieves are embarking on a full band tour early next year which I’m very much looking forward to – but this gig left me fairly content until then. I urge you to go and see Gaz Brookfield live – he’s probably coming to a town near you. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
This gig review was written by Emma Prew.