The spellbinding nature of an ‘intimate gig’ has all but been lost in recent years.
Captivating shows in quiet corners trumped by festivals competing for line-up supremacy, headlining tours fleshing out massive stadiums, bands refusing to steer from predetermined set lists. The challenge of ‘how many tickets can we sell’ consuming what should be the overruling purpose – the music.
Former Bluebottle Kiss guitarist and vocalist Jamie Hutchings’ solo performance was intimate in every aspect; the small crowd quietened as he took The Junk Bar’s stage (2 November); background music faded: “Right on cue, thanks.”
He started the set with ‘Beautifully Tragic’, the starting song from his band’s 1994 album, ‘Higher Up The Firetrails’. “I wrote that song when I only knew how to play C major seventh,” Jamie explained.
“You’ll notice a lot of my music from that era was solely based around that one chord,” he laughed. “Even still. Sometimes limited ability creates vaguely interesting things.”Click here to read our recent interview with Jamie.
He continued: “This next song was released at around the same time as that Leonardo DiCaprio movie, the one with Kate…” – “Winslet!” a crowd member chimed. Jamie chuckled. “That’s the one. It actually scored a fair bit of radio time.”
‘Tap Dancing On The Titanic’ was stripped back from its heavy percussion, electric guitar-dictated original, the alt-rock artist instead slowing the pace and strumming the chords acoustically.
‘Smokey Dawson’ followed, the first addition from Jamie’s own releases. His solo music proved noticeably more country-influenced than Bluebottle Kiss.
“The fourth song is always a bit of a mystery,” he began, “I’ve changed my mind every single show. This track, I’ve never played solo before – it’s the closest Bluebottle Kiss came to jazz. I dreamt about it recently, except it was slightly reconfigured. Something in my mind was obviously telling me to ‘play it this way’.”
While the original begins with free jazz-like improv, two minutes of clashing instrumentals eventually becoming coalescent, Jamie launched into the lyrics immediately, alternatively showcasing the song’s simplest core.
He swapped his acoustic guitar for an electric. “Somebody requested ‘That’s The Way It’s Gonna Be Little Darlin’ last night.” Laughter ensured, Jamie smiled. “I told them, I didn’t know how to play ‘Horses’. But I can play a song that’s very similar.”
‘Outside Of The Dogs’ proved a little darker than the Darryl Braithwaite classic; he followed with the slow burning and emotion drenched ‘Barb Wire Star’ (an “archaeological dig from 1996”, as he described it).
“Sometimes people mishear my lyrics, and compliment me on the wrong line,” Jamie grinned, buying time as he tuned his guitar. “Though more often than not the lyrics they’ve recited are better than what I wrote.”
1998 release ‘Smother It In Honey’ proved a set-list favourite; ‘A Little Bit Of Light’s guitar riff shone. Jamie closed the set with the much more recent (2003) track, ‘Slow Train To A Comfy Jail’.
In an industry of increasing electronic enhancement, Jamie Hutchings remains an untouched gem. Even with infinite methods of modifying music, he relies on six strings, composing, and his voice.
Though despite the simplicity, his modest musical tools have asserted themselves as mighty weapons. His vocals are raw and rich, his songwriting honest and passionate – often melancholic, yet beautiful. His instrumentals uncomplicated though never repetitive, tracks frequently weaving outside the box of standard song structure.
But it was his warm narrating and humble self-mockery that took the gig to memorable heights. Standard performer-audience hierarchy was all but abandoned, Jamie drawing the audience in through song AND story, painting elaborate visual pictures as he described each composition.
What perhaps proved most refreshing was his keenness to shape each show around online (and live!) fan requests. Rather than simply “providing a service” – the crowd pays, he sings – he was pushing to determine which songs established the strongest connection.
Unreal to consider the man has moved through more than two decades of differing musical eras. The world is fast-changing, but Jamie Hutchings has very much remained in his element.