It was a highly enjoyable evening last Saturday at The Zanzibar, which comprised of four acts in total. The reason for the assembly was The Racket’s Single Launch Night for their debut 7” vinyl release Faded Days / Don’t Know What To Say, with main support from the Runcorn combo Factory, and highly enjoyable they both were too! But as a subtle counterpoint to the musical muscular workouts of Factory, and the pedal to the floor / kick in the bollocks energy of the Zeitgeist throttling of The Racket, we had the acoustic sets of Tony McCaldon and Connah Abraham. The calm before the impending storm.

Tony was a last minute, un-publicised addition to the bill, and so had the indomitable challenge of kicking off the musical proceedings to an audience beginning to drift in to the venue. To a lesser experienced musician this would be quite dawning, but Tony was more than equal to the challenge. Having taken a musical sabbatical recently, he is back with the songs to match.

At first listen he is in the classic singer-songwriter mode, guitar and harmonica, with a hint of old Mr Zimmerman himself. But that would be a lazy analysis. What he has in common is an appreciation of the song-writing craft, of melding together emotional lyricism and music resulting in a richness of composition that is not easily attainable. Also his voice has a similarity to early Dylan, but is of a higher register, and possesses a crispness and clarity that to these ears Bob never achieved. Stock still, slightly stage left and bathed in light, intense and full of purpose, he confidently eased his way through a five song including the gem Save Me. All the arriving audience were enthralled.

Connah Abraham

Connah Abraham. Photo Credit Anthony Wild At Off The Record

Connor Abraham bounces on stage full of confidence and enthusiasm, and the display of song writing craft is continued, albeit from a different approach within the compositional spectrum.  Highly watchable, and despite breaking a string – Tony McCaldron coming to the rescue –  he swazzed his way through a seven song set, including a mesmeric version of Marvin Gaye’s Can I Get A Witness, and the superlative and majestic Better Place, rounding off with a formidable version of Fugitive. This was a great solo performance, full of assurance, the solo outing a change for Connah having previously headed up the hotly tipped and tremendous The Stamp.

These two musicians set the scene for a fantastic and assured set by Factory, and then The Racket, who tore the place up, 1976 style. But these solo spots of Mr McCaldron and Abraham helped to remind us that the art of music is multi-faceted, and whatever genre, a great song is a great song. And we were lucky to hear absolutely loads of them last Saturday night. In fact, it was a privilege.

*Feature image – Tony McCaldon. Photo Credit: Dave Hudson

Steve Kinrade