Damien O’Kane and Ron Block live at The Philharmonic Music Room, 24.09.19.

The Philharmonic Music Room is perhaps the most civilised and well thought out venue of it’s size in the city. The temporary dividing wall separating the stage area from the bar provides a comfortable place to wait before “doors.” Whilst gig goers at venues such as The Zanzibar and The O2 Academy have to queue outside here you can get a drink and even a seat if you are early enough. And it is heartening to see that a fair few people have done so tonight.

Ron Block needs no introduction to fans of bluegrass and traditional music. His work with as a solo artist and with Alison Krauss has earned him numerous awards and well deserved critical acclaim. Tonight he visits our city as part of a tour with Irish banjo slinger Damien O’Kane with whom he recorded acclaimed album Bonjophony last year.

The respect these two musicians have for each other is obvious even before they state it verbally in the many anecdotes between songs and their on stage chemistry both as a double act and with the other two musicians onstage with them. Namely Steven Burns (guitar) and Duncan Lyall (double bass and Moog.) At one point O’Kane likens Block to a “Rock God” which prompts Block to demonstrate a technique on his instrument more commonly associated with the likes of Joe Satriani or Yngwie Malmsteen. Needless to say this goes down well with those in attendance.

Damien O'Kane and Ron Block Liverpool

The set begins with “Miller’s Gin/Potato Anxiety” a song title inspired in part by a conversation O’Kane had with a neighbour on the way home from his allotment and continues with pieces mainly taken from Banjophony. One notable exception is “Ivy,” a song taken from Block’s 2013 album Walking Songs withch features lyrics written in under thirty minutes by schoolteacher Barbara Reyonalds whilst she was supervising her class. Now that is impressive.

The band finish with “Lucky Rogues” but it is not long before they are back with an encore of “Danish Horde” during which O’Kane acknowledges the assistance of the venue staff who helped him with his gear earlier in the night. Something, he is keen to point out does not happen everywhere.

Let’s hope that Banjophony is not a one off and that Messrs Block and O’Kane record another album together. Then again whatever these two gentleman do next will definitely be worth checking out.

To find out more about Damien O’Kane and Ron Block visit https://www.ronblock.com/ https://damienokane.co.uk/

Andy Sunley