Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Gig Diary: Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Monday 23rd May 2022

One downside of the sparsity of live music in the winter of 20-21 was the missing gleeful nature of progressive US touring artists celebrating the momentous homeland election result after a period of apologetic embarrassment. While similarly minded British artists have to wait a little longer to wade into some political joy, an unexpected twist occurred on a rainy Birmingham night thousands of miles from a source of bursting pride. It didn't take long for Aussie Lachlan Bryan to tip his hat at the departure of his country's somewhat controversial Prime Minister. Yes, left leaning artists tend to dominate my scene.

This is also a scene bristling with many exciting acts from across the world of which Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes has been a prominent player since first emerging at the Maverick Festival in 2017. The door slammed shut on their European ventures for a couple of years, but not the creative output which included a couple of albums and a host of other musical activity. Straight out of the blocks, this Melbourne-based outfit have fit a fleeting UK return into a busy schedule with a bit of unfinished business ahead of an exciting match up later in the summer. 

For this late spring hop of 10,000 miles, Lachlan and his touring buddies, Shaun Ryan and Riley Catherall, have teamed up with Dan Webster and Emily Lawler for  a run of dates blending some eclectic UK folk-country-Americana with similarly inspired tunes from Down Under. It is a case of re-tracing old steps as Lachlan appeared at the Kitchen Garden in July 2019, a venue the hosts also knew well from previous visits.

After an hour long set where the songs, wit and inventive interpretive music of Dan Webster blended well with the fine fiddle playing of his musical partner in crime Emily Lawler, it was time to re-acquaint a full admiration of how Lachlan Bryan presents his music. 

Decked in lavish head attire that was both useful to keep dry and up the ante at the bar, it was a case of classic old stuff right from the off. Maybe the opener of 'Peace in the Valley' was a detour, but the emotive lead off line to 'Hope That I'm Wrong' and the curious mid-lyric of 'some girls (quite) like country music' in 'A Portrait of an Artist as a Middle Aged Man' triggered the memory to why his music resonates so highly. 

Following that was a mixture of the very new and others from a fruitful past. The best of the new songs was 'The Road', a stunning slow ballad that pierces the landscape like a beacon on a record where the guys haven't been afraid to experiment. It was also pertinent in content as the road once again beckons. An old favourite in 'Dugdemona' closed the ninety-minute set as we were reminded that casual New York acquaintances can lead to funny goings on down New Orleans. 

The other major highlight from this timely renewal was the superb musicianship of regular Wildes - Shaun Ryan on bass and Riley Catherall excelling on lead guitar. We even had a glimpse of the latter's solo singer-songwriter work. Lachlan continues to dominate with a huge slice of charismatic panache that is also encompassing to others as exemplified in executing a brilliant duet of 'The Basics of Love' when inviting Emily back onto the stage. There was an all round dollop of mutual humility between five artists and a hearty crowd choosing to spend a wet Monday evening with some seriously fine music.

This was Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes 2022 European venture Act 1. Act 2 kicks off in June/July when the guys hook up with Hannah Aldridge for a Scandinavian trip and further UK dates including a Kitchen Garden return. Also it wouldn't be a Maverick Festival without Lachlan Bryan if he is on our shores. So, it is festival appearance number 4 down Suffolk way.

We really are revisiting the best of pre-2020 when these boys are back in town. Full credit to Dan and Emily for hosting them and providing the opportunity for fans to see them play live again. A night of rich investment, ample return and a slice of heartfelt integrity.