24/11/2010 | Paul Smith – Jericho Tavern, Oxford

Lisa Ward

There’s a sense that Paul Smith had been replaying Maximo Park songs before embarking upon his solo tour. ‘We used to talk about bands in tiny bars, we used to talk about girls who play guitars’ and that is exactly what he provides. Armed with a three strong band he takes to the Jericho Tavern stage as if life with his former band almost never existed. Whilst his trademark hat still remains and he oozes confidence, his mid set banter marks highlights the Teesside born singers humble nature.

His sound is humbled too. Whilst lyrically there are shades of similarity to Maximo Park, it culminates with the music to create a set of songs which catapult me back to thoughts of Acrobat. They contain the same melancholy vibe, the same refined nature that marks it apart from the more amped up sound upon which the band have made their name. There’s a concern as he starts, drifting through Improvement/Denouement, This Heat and While You’re In The Bath that the set is likely to be downbeat, but Paul is wise to this and at every point when interest may begin to wane, he ups the tempo, reconfirming his diversity.

North Atlantic Drift is more beefy, filled with rhythmic interludes and striking drum beats whilst Strange Fiction contains similar vibes, opening up to allow for its poetic lyrics. Meanwhile, Alone I Would Have Dropped is routed in a more spoken word format, whilst Our Lady Of Lourdes is filled with anthem sized riffs ala Snow Patrol. Nevertheless it’s The Tingles which transfers best to the live arena. Whilst on the album it drifts off, live it is given the air it needs to resonate both musically and emotional.

Combine this with a cover of Arthur Russel’s  A Little Lost and solo ukulele performance of Pinball and Smith more than gratifies his audience. It’s rare to see the crowd at the Tavern rooted to the spot, but this is what entails throughout the night, all eyes glued firmly forwards as we are lead through a musical meander of Smith’s inner mind. Rounding off with a chilled out rendition of By The Monument combined with Apply Some Pressure the audience are granted a nod back to his routes and whilst the album (Margins) might have no grabbed me instantly, live Smith confirms that he has once again hit the mark, with a perfectly timed set that leaves me and the rest of the audience simply longing for more.

www.paulsmithmusic.eu