The Cellar, Oxford is quite a strange venue, owned by Adrian Hopkins, an Oxford music promoter and manager in the 60’s who managed such acts as Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Cash and Thin Lizzy. It can be found down an alley next to Lush, called Frewin Court. The decor is interesting – a painted fire in a fireplace with a large painted moose head above, a clown behind the stage. The sound was unexpectedly good for a small underground venue, a great sound engineer running everything and the lighting suitable to the gig.
Raffer was the first support, followed by Danny Gruff (who I first saw when he won a competition to support POV on their last UK tour and also supported Ryan on his UK House Part tour). Raffer played with his drummer, whereas Danny played alone with a semi-acoustic set. Whilst the audience didn’t know Raffer they did enjoy his set. A number of people in the crowd had seen Danny before and sang along to his songs. Danny is an acoustic song-writer who set himself the challenge last year to write a song a week… and succeeded! He has great presence on stage and had the audience hanging on his every word before he even started to play.
The set up was somewhat different to the other venues on the tour. Ryan and Rob were seated on bar stools (Rob somewhat struggling to stay in the seated position, I swear he must have been velcro’d down, every so often a foot would ‘pop’ as his usual stage flare tried to burst out!).
Ryan sang songs from his debut album Hell of a Day, the audience loved each song and sang along with each one. Ryan also included a song from his SS days “Truth on Tape” which was a very thoughtful song and performance.
The favourite song of the night was “Records and Needles” which sounded amazing live and despite such an intimate venue still rocked. You could feel how Ryan is writing about his musical influences but making it his own.
There was a small crowd this evening but each one enjoyed the gig and stayed to talk with Ryan and the guys afterwards.
The following night Ryan was playing at The Barfly in Camden, a very different venue from The Cellar. The room was packed, the audience singing along and swaying to the music. Rob was jumping all over the stage, rocking out and generally loving every moment. Mickey was spinning his sticks and throwing some moves, Ryan loving the audience participation and feeding off this.
Between each song Ryan was talking to the audience, he discussed the difficulties he has had in the last year, the difficulties he has had bringing his dream of solo music to fruition. He talked about how much each song means to him and kept up a witty banter.
Ryan again plays the song from his SS days, “Truth on Tape”, a relatively slow, low key song compared to his songs from Hell of a Day, a song he admits he poured his heart into. When people talk at the back of the room interrupting his playing, he stops and politely asks them to allow him to play the song which means so much to him.
Raise your freak flag high
Never mind what they say
Trust your heart and mean your words
We’ve all been brainwashed clean
I think it’s time to we get some mud in our teeth
Sometimes you gotta say fuck it… thank you please
I think this song appeals to a lot of people for a lot of reasons and deserves to be heard. I think all of us have some part of us that the world made us think we should change, this song tells us otherwise.
This whole evening just proved to me that Ryan Hamilton is not Ryan Hamilton of People on Vacation doing his solo stuff, but instead Ryan Hamilton, amazing guitarist, entertainer and songwriter. He’s come a long way from the BFS farewell tour – he is doing his own stuff and owning it.