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Friday, 6 May 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Anneke Van Giersbergen

Anneke Van Giersbergen & VerseChorusVerse, Exchange Bristol

Anneke Van Giersbergen is one of the artists that seems to be everywhere at the moment, having made her name as the singer of Dutch Alt-rockers The Gathering, she has gone on to release several solo records, guested on the Ayreon project, formed her own new band The Gentle Storm and frequently collaborated with Hevy Devy. All this means that she has one of the most recognisable vocals in rock, it also means that we were not going to pass up seeing her on an acoustic tour that was just Anneke and an acoustic guitar, playing a collection of her own songs and covers, similar to the solo tour she did a few years ago winding up in a live album with Anathema's Danny Cavanagh.

As myself and my compatriots arrived early to the show, we went into the cider house next to the venue for a drink, taking a seat in the small pub we realised that we had walked into a wake for a regular, obviously he was having a fantastic send off as most of those in the pub were already pissed, there was pounding trance music playing and in the final moments before we left a fight erupted between two punters. This was really what told us to move on so we finished our drinks and left the chaos unfold inside. Into the venue then which has had a bit of an overhaul in recent times so it is a bit more light and spacious than before, however the performance area is still a corridor but I can forgive that because of the intimacy of the venue.

We didn't have to wait long for the support act to take the stage, and as the diminutive VerseChorusVerse climbed on the stage and strapped on his acoustic guitar we and the rest of the already full room didn't really know what to expect possibly anticipating some singer songwriter with maudlin songs about love, what we got wasn't that, these were heartfelt soul stirring songs that brought to mind Justin Currie's solo work both in the song writing and in his vocals. While Mr VerseChorus (as he was referred to later by Anneke) was on stage one of our number Mr Hewitt instantly fell in love with him and his music as he is a massive Justin Currie fan so to have something so similar playing in front of us meant that he was enraptured for the whole set, indeed as we all were. VerseChorusVerse is the pseudonym for Tony Wright formally of And So I Watch You From Afar, he took up the moniker due to there being too many famous Tony Wright's with the Terrorvision frontman being the most recognisable in the music scene, this was explained to us in one of the affable humorous asides between the songs all of which were delivered with Wrights cheeky Belfast twang.

After the first track he introduced us the 'Tuning Song' which he said many have stolen off him (he was in fact tuning his guitar on the fly) with the second and third numbers being slower quieter songs they were overshadowed a little by the group of people talking very loudly at the back of the room, so much so that VerseChorusVerse mentioned it onstage before going into Spiders another slow one, personally I walked to the back told them to shut the hell up and have some respect, after they retreated to the bar myself and the security guards closed the doors to the performance area so we could enjoy the rest of the gig. Coincidentally after they left the set came to life with the Shakedown Sally which has an Gene Vincentesque Rock N Roll vibe before driving through to the end with a cover of Tennessee Ernie Ford's Sixteen Tons which is one of those songs you don't recognise until the chorus which was sung with gusto by myself and those that knew the song (of which there were a few) with such a storming set of his own songs VerseChorusVerse was the ideal start to what was shaping up to be a magical night. 9/10

We had a little wait but then to a huge ovation Anneke took to the stage and strapped on her guitar said hello to everyone and then went straight into My Electricity from her The Gathering days, it was a strong start to the evening that got everyone singing, from there she went into 4 Years from the Lorrainville project both of these songs together provided the ideal beginning to the set, with Anneke showing off her fragile naturally harmonic vocal that lifts you and fills you with whatever emotion the song convey's, it almost brought me to tears twice that evening with her magnificent rendition of Fleetwood Mac's Songbird and the superb cover of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here. After I composed myself post-Songbird it was into the more rocking I'm On Fire from the Springsteen catalogue. With another rendition of the tuning song Anneke explained the story behind the next song My Mother Said as she told the story we all felt privy to her world as if we were listening to an old friend, her humble style of performance is engaging and welcoming to all, Anneke was travelling on tour with her husband, her children and her soundman, using it as a holiday and experience as well as a tour.

So the family theme was evident on the beautiful My Mother Said which tells of a renegade teenage Anneke talking to her mother and changing her relationship with her at the end, it is as I've said a beautiful song that was followed by a trio of her own songs Saturnine (The Gathering), Beautiful One and Locked Away (The Gathering) all of which were excellent songs in their own right but with added effect of being stripped back to the core. Anneke is very self depreciating but did let us into the exclusive news (received that day) that she will be on the next Devin Townsend album (which is good) as the set wrapped up two more covers came from with Sex On Fire into the Ih-Ah (by Devin) which had the crowd singing it's cathartic chorus, the sing along factor again increased on Broken Wings by Mister Mister which brought the main set to a close. The de-riguer clapping and hollering continued for a bit until Anneke returned to the stage, the encore was two songs first was the aforementioned Wish You Were Here which lulled the crowd with it's magic and once again warmed the vocal chords for the finale of the storming Jolene which saw the eclectic mix of people in the room (although mostly metalheads) singing the country classic at full volume. This was an intimate gig that brought the crowd closer to the artist, sometimes with all the malady of rock and metal gigs, it's nice to take some time out and see just one artist perform a hand picked selection of fantastic songs in an acoustic platform bolstered by Anneke's fabulous vocals. 9/10             

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