In some ways his style reminded me of Neil Morris – who I saw live back in September – but I don’t know if it was a real similarity, or just the fact that he was sharing a bill with Heartwork.
I didn’t know any of Si’s material, but I ended up really enjoying a good few of his songs. Of course, playing a show with Heartwork and The Ataris, his music was a tad on the depressing side, a couple of his songs really did make me laugh. His take on the ‘a girl broke my heart so I wrote a song about it’ trope was rather tongue in cheek, and the song he performed about the struggle of independent bands (he dedicated the song to “people who’re in bands that don’t get anywhere”, to which his band mate in the crowd shouted “yeah, mostly with you!”) was brilliantly written and highly astute. I couldn’t find the names of either of the songs, but if you were at the show and happen to know I’d highly appreciate the information!
Si’s set did flag a little bit at times, as his songs started sounding fairly similar, but that can often happen when you’re a solo opening act. The thing that really mattered was that he performed his heart out, pushing his vocal to the limits and even performing a high jump after the thrashy outro that closed his set. To close his set he shared the fact that when he was in another band, fifteen years ago, leaflets for their shows posted around Swindon claimed that they were “The Ataris on a poor and uninspired day”, which got a very big laugh.
My highlight of the evening was definitely Heartwork. When I got my tickets to the show he wasn’t on the line-up, but when he was added to the bill last week he definitely became my main reason for attending.
This was my third time seeing him (Heartwork is the stage name of Dan O’Dell) live this year, and it was miles above the other two shows that I witnessed. The main reason for this is the addition of new song ‘Dashboard Confrontational’ – a tour de force that puts your emotions through the wringer and dumps you on the other side feeling distraught but strangely fulfilled.
Now, for some context: I write notes while I’m watching shows. I jot down things that the artists say, lyrics from songs that I find particularly inspiring, and descriptions of the music, all to assist me in writing my reviews. This should be the part where I look back on my notes and find some unique viewpoint or comment that I can share with you about how brilliant the song was, or how utterly captivating it was. However, because of how damn absorbing the song was, the only coherent thought I managed to get from it was: fuck me.
I think Heartwork is a guy who could really achieve something, if he keeps touring consistently and puts as much heart and soul into his writing as he has been thus far. But during ‘Dashboard Confrontational’ something clicked for me, and Heartwork became more than just a young guy with an acoustic guitar: it became an entity, an artist, a force to be reckoned with.
The rest of the set was brilliant: performing ‘Butterfly’, an older song that I hadn’t experienced before, ‘Achilles Friend’ (the renamed ‘The Things I Wish I’d Said’) and ‘I Went To Parts’, but I think the set peaked with that jaw-dropping, powerful moment. Before he started the song, Dan shared the fact that he hadn’t played the song live before and he didn’t know if it would make it onto the album, because it relied too strongly on the drums, but that’s completely wrong. No offence, Dan.
Seriously, though, if it doesn’t make it onto the album I am going to kill somebody.
I know, right, I must be crazy. Someone as legendary as Kris Roe comes to Swindon and I’m nonplussed by the entire event. But that’s why it’s taken me so long to write this review: I was trying to think of better observations to make, the aspects of this set that made it exciting and enjoyable for me, but in all honesty I felt rather bored and kind of just wanted to go home for an early night in bed.
It might have been something to do with the fact that Kris had to retune his guitar before every single song. Seriously, there was that much tuning and fiddling that if he hadn’t done it he could have fitted another three songs into his set – no exaggeration. I was enjoying the music, but the time taken between songs left the set feeling stilted and disconnected. If I’d gone to see The Ataris as a band, I don’t think I would have seen this, so it felt rather disappointing.
I don’t really have anything else to say, I’m afraid. I always try to write in depth reviews, but there wasn’t really any depth in this set for me to dive into. There’s only so many times you can hear similar chords in a similar order with similar lyrical themes. I did enjoy ‘San Dimas High School Football Rules’ – as it was about going to Disneyland, it really stood out from the rest of the songs – and ‘Your Boyfriend Sucks’ (I think I know where Neck Deep got the inspiration for ‘A Part of Me’!).
If anything, the interaction with the crowd was actually the selling point for me. Kris made a lot of witty quips while incessantly tuning, striking up debates about the potential plot line of the new Star Wars film (“I’m going to Star Wars tonight, but don’t tell my girlfriend […] I’m meant to be waiting until she gets here!”) and discussing attitudes towards war (“If you fight war with war […] It’s the most stupid analogy in the world”) and politics in general (“All politicians are fucking idiots, probably. […] Someone had his moat cleaned for £3000. Moat? That’s fucking awesome.”). It was also extremely funny when Kris played his encore, warning the crowd that ‘The Saddest Song’ was his “pretend last song, which means I’ll probably play some more after it, probably meaning definitely. I won’t walk off, we’ll just continue”, ending the song by shouting “You’ve been excellent Swindon!”, leaning slightly away from the mic and then leaning forward again, saying “Okay, I’m back!”. Moments like this made the show more enjoyable, but overall it was a lukewarm headline set, which was a huge shame.
I couldn’t work out what the last song on the setlist was (sorry!) so if you were in attendance at the show please let me know in the comments down below.