Few gigs involving ‘name’ artists are quite so intimate that the headliner can afford to circulate, greeting the audience, but that’s how Damian Wilson kicks off his appearance tonight. There’s a very informal vibe. This last date of a short promo tour for Wilson’s latest album Built For Fighting involves numerous anecdotes, shout outs to various members of the audience, and songs from across his solo career. It’s almost like having Damian and the band round your place for the evening jamming and chatting over a few beers.
Given his rock/prog credentials, it might surprise some to learn of Wilson’s rich and varied solo output, and tonight certainly gives his inner singer/songwriter full exposure. With not an electric guitar in sight, the set starts gently with a throwback to his first solo album Cosmas, and the aching verses and stirring chorus of When I Leave This Land followed by Seek For Adventure from Weir Keeper’s Tale, his collaboration with Adam Wakeman earlier this year. We get back stories to numerous tracks – including the tale of Christy Moore coming across Shane McGowan busking in the old Hammersmith pedestrian subway influencing Written In Anger, and the fact that the audience participation feature Homegrown is far more about hypocrisy than it is about drugs.
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Wilson is incredibly gracious and generous to his band as well, giving short introductions and numerous name-checks to all during the evening. Only a few songs into the set he leaves the stage entirely to allow guitarist Harry Rowland the opportunity to perform a couple of his own songs, including the rather lovely Take Care. Particular praise is given to keyboard player, and Built For Fighting producer, Andrew Holdsworth who’s on point throughout the evening, and without whom, Wilson assures us, the album probably wouldn’t have got made.
In these cosy surroundings, with the friendly banter and relaxed feel, it’s easy to forget just what an impressive back catalogue Wilson has, and precisely why so many people have sought out his services. But there are moments, as on the minor drum showcase for Dirk Bruinenberg, Fire, the Radio 2 play-listed warm jauntiness of Thrill Me, the acoustic rendition of Headspace’s Soldier, and the emotive I Won’t Blame Life where Wilson’s voice covers all bases between fragile beauty and lung-busting majesty, when the realisation hits that he possesses a powerful talent far bigger than the space we’re in.
Two hours fly by, peppered as they are by real warmth, great songcraft and memorable hooks – a winning recipe.