Gig Review: Casiotone For The Painfully Alone @ Charlies, Manchester, 13th March 2008

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone @ Charlies, Manchester
I was hoping to bring you a review of Neil Young’s Apollo gig last Wednesday but my attempt to buy a ticket on Scarlet Mist fell through at the last minute. In stark contrast, on Thursday night we found ourselves in the rather tawdry surroundings of Charlies, a small bar at the bottom of a side street off Princess Street in the centre of Manchester. Tickets for the Neil Young gig were a whopping £75, a price that put me off when they were first released but I relented after I read a few reviews of Young’s tour – after the Apollo dates had sold out. Still, that left me with £75 to spend on a Leonard Cohen ticket. Expect a post/rant about the ridiculous cost of gig tickets in 2008 any day now.

The Casiotone tickets were about a tenth of the cost of the Neil Youngs and Charlies was full of the sort of serious looking indie types that we’ve come to expect from a Pineapple Folk gig, along with a couple of wasted tramps who had managed to somehow breach the fearsome Pineapple Folk security. Fortunately, the tramps didn’t cause the mayhem that I was half expecting. They danced to support band, The Rosie Taylor Project, a quiet five-piece from Leeds who, JustHipper and I agreed, sounded “nice”, which isn’t a great complement, but they did. The songs were melodic and undeniably twee although the band were missing a guitarist who, hopefully, would have added some balls to their sound, though I’m not sure there would have been any room for him on the tiny stage.

There was plenty of room for Casiotone For the Painfully Alone as he is just one man, Owen Ashworth – albeit quite a big man: think Keith from The Office crossed with E from Eels. He had a pretty bad cold and began by apologising, which prompted heckles to “get on with it” from one of the resident tramps, much to Ashworth’s chagrin. You could hear his voice breaking up in the opening “Cold White Christmas” but it made the performance even more affecting. Ashworth’s vocals tend to range from deadpan to morose but the tiny cracks in his voice speak volumes in his sad, but often funny, vignettes of smalltown life and love. The only problem with the early part of the set was the lack of volume, with his vocals being occasionally drowned out by the beats and beeps from the small array of electronic devices set out before him, especially during “Nashville Parthenon”. When he wasn’t singing he was hunched over his electronics, applying real-time effects to sequences, triggering samples and playing chords on what seemed to be a tiny keyboard.

The volume picked up when Jenn Herbinson took to the stage to sing a few songs, including an exquisite “Grandmother’s Pearls”, excellent new song “Ice Cream Truck” and the brilliant “Love Connection”. It was a fine cameo, but Ashworth trumped it by closing out proceedings with a glorious cover of Paul Simon’s “Graceland”, stripped down to its bare bones with just a drum beat, an impenetrable wall of organ and Ashworth’s gruff vocals. Illness may have precluded and encore, and the likes of “New Year’s Kiss” and “Young Shields” were notable for their absence, but it was eight quid very well spent.

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone – Love Connection

Casiotone For The Painfully Alone – Cold White Christmas

7 Responses to “Gig Review: Casiotone For The Painfully Alone @ Charlies, Manchester, 13th March 2008”

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