REVIEW: Keith Wilson, Melrose Hall, Wirral Festival of Firsts

Our reviewer Shaun McCoy went along to Melrose Hall, in Hoylake to watch one of the festival’s headline acts, the stupendous Keith Wilson – poet, singer, lover, musician, extraordinaire. Keith had also put together a highly talented supporting bill before he unleashed himself on a sell-out audience.

First on the bill were two newcomers Rochelle Ellis and Phil Seary, who were part of a poetry course Keith had run for BBC Radio Merseyside’s Up For Arts project. Rochelle is more of a romantic poet, reeling off lines that were engaging and lyrically aesthetic, with engaging observations of life and relationships from a woman’s perspective. Phil was also very observationally descriptive, but from a more humorous angle. He regaled us with hilarious tales of everyday frustrations such as problems with self service tills in supermarkets, the anxiety of football fans and the silly antics from the players.

Next on was Carolyn Speed, a long time friend of Keith’s who has been on some of his supporting bills in previous shows. Carolyn is another very descriptively sharp poet that can rustle up a poem from the antics of children’s toys Ken & Barbie, gardening, relationships and sugar cravings in the highly funny Jelly Baby Massacre. The latter demonstrates here eclectic imagination and humorous word play that brings the ordinary into the spotlight.

From poetry to music, this time it’s the turn of the blissfully talented Rachel Nicholas, a singer/songwriter in the mould of Sandy Denny and Kate Bush. She is a classical pianist with a sumptuous voice creating highly atmospheric songs. Rachel was performing songs off her debut album Invisible Girl. I particularly enjoyed Under the Weather/Lullaby which was made up of rousing piano and wholly passionate vocals.

And last but not least, Keith Wilson, the star of the show who delivers the evening’s coup de grace with a host of illuminating poetry, songs and hilarious observations that make him one of ‘the’ people to see live. He’s accompanied in the musical department by long time collaborator Roddy Muffin, of the Muffin Men. Keith and Roddy kick the proceedings off with an edgy, punky number None Traditionally Beautiful which features memorable lines like ‘she now had a face like a cat breaking wind’ with a blessedly witty ending ‘hari Krishna, harry ramsden, harry worth!

Rachel Nicholas joins Roddy and Keith for the rest of the songs in the set, which features tracks from his new album L6 Boomslang. One such luminary tune is Donna Kebabylon an anti-romantic song with more classic lines such as ‘he said he’d rather fall in horse manure than fall in love.’

Keith announces that there will be a follow up to his bestselling book Irritable Vowel Syndrome. The new book will be entitled Bum Fuzzle which will be released later on in the year. The Real Slimfast Shady is another memorable song which demonstrates Keith’s great use of words and subjects mixed together with rock & roll and surrealism. The track celebrates the good old British fry-up with one of many descriptively surreal lines such as ‘two bread vans wrapped round a cow.’

Keith rounds off another pure gold performance with Comb Over Beethoven, a contemporary rock & roll classic in the mould of Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. The event organiser John Gorman thanked everyone for coming and highlighted some of the other eclectic events going on throughout the rest of the festival.

WORDS BY: Shaun McCoy


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