There’s a burning question running through my mind as I wait for tonight’s proceedings to get underway; where the hell is everyone? Doors have been open nearly 90 minutes, but I’m only a few digits short of being able to count the number of people using just my fingers and toes. Seeing the room this bare, it sits on the border between an intimate/special occasion and a massive oversight by the Academy management. Either way, no one who’s here seems to care, which I suppose is all that matters really.
Support tonight comes from local singer/songwriter Lee Rogers, who resembles a cross between Richard Hammond and Rod Stewart, but is thankfully nowhere near as annoying as either of them. In fact, he’s far from annoying, but pretty damn good; he plays a selection of heartfelt songs about love, pain and life — or “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” as the man himself jokingly puts it. His music is well structured, his voice is strong, and for a solo artist he has an impressively atmospheric way of playing — varying the volume of his guitar and establishing a very rhythmic style despite the lack of percussion. I would love to hear these songs with the backing of a full band, but that’s just my personal preference, and judging by the strong reception he gets, he’s more than capable of doing a good job on his own.
The pint-sized Keith Caputo and his band, The Sad Eyed Ladies take to the stage to as much of a roar as 60 people can muster, and they launch into the brooding, slow-burn of “Kill With God”, which sounds much more atmospheric than on record. The setlist covers the whole range of Caputo’s solo material, with old songs such as “Razzberry Mockery” mixed in with cuts like “Devils Pride” and “Crawling” from his most recent, ‘A Fondness For Hometown Scars’ album. His live voice is superb, and his range of tones impressive — one minute he is singing in quite a pop-style, the next he sounds more like Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots. He is also something of an enigma, and it’s hard to tell whether his pained expression is one of a true suffering artist, or that of, quite simply, a poser. The more you watch, the more you feel it has to be the former.
Not to be outdone, Caputo’s band put in a stirring performance that seems to gain momentum the longer they are on stage. The rhythm section is tight, while Dutch guitarist Maarten Moerland is more than capable of matching Caputo’s pop to hard rock range. It is probably this versatility that is most appealing about Caputo and his band live; while many musicians in his position have the habit of being a bit samey with solo material, Caputo shows himself tonight to be a performer of many musical talents, playing a collection of songs that will appeal to many fans.
Caputo clearly isn’t bothered by the low turn-out — he asks for one of the lights on him to be turned down so he can “see the huge sold out crowd!” Laughing, he then says, “Don’t worry, even if there was just one paraplegic guy here with no-one else, we’d still play!” His own website describes his music as ‘dreamy music for dreamy people’ and you’ll struggle to sum him up more effectively than that. By the time the closing pair of “Selfish” and “Troubles Down” are done, you get the impression of having watched something understated, atmospheric, captivating and ultimately intimate and special. Perhaps the venue management were justified after all.
Review and Photographs — Dave Musson