The imposing height of Mr Findlay Brown convinces one that as a prizefighter in his youth, he would have been a daunting proposition despite his gangly frame. But these days he deals in the struggles of the heart, not the fist. His 2006 album Separated By The Sea was entirely devoted to winning back his Scandinavian girlfriend, who may or may not have left Findlay because she was sick of the aches she was getting in her neck.
The Yorkshireman’s folk-based, psych-riddled songs are gems in the vein of Love, and perhaps also owe something to the finger picking innovations of a Tim Hardin or John Martyn. All are ripe for translation to a live setting, but not this one at the Arts Theatre. While a cosy and pleasant little Soho venue, it was sadly only half full, and picking up on a rather lethargic vibe, Findlay played a gig that will surely not rank with his finest. Indeed, at one point he remarked in his Last Of The Summer Wine drawl: “Quiet in here, in’t it?”
Despite a lack of engagement, the songs are all melodically solid and without exception rather lovely, and this saved the show. I Will and Come Home were languidly rendered alone acoustically, before his three-piece band joined him and the Elliott Smith-like textures of the album were coaxed out. Paperman and Down With The Dead Men were faithfully and earnestly performed, if not particularly passionately. The quite extraordinary Don’t You Know I Love You closed proceedings, complete with funked up electric guitar and swirling psychedelic feedback. A revelation tonight, one wonders what this lengthy opus is capable of in a more intimate venue, or perhaps at the Green Man Festival in August.
Findlay also proved himself a true student with a cover of Captain Beefheart‘s I’m Glad, in a set that lasted just fifty minutes. The rest of the evening was given over to other performers showcased as part of this taster of the Latitude Festival in July. Angus and Julia Stone had just flown in from Sydney, and gave us a sterling few songs characterised by some Joanna Newsom/Björk style vocals that seem to be all the rage, and a bewildered Angus Stone who was so jetlagged he didn’t know where to put himself. Aside from the questionable cover version of Windy City from the musical Calamity Jane, these two are a flawless folk duo that may find bigger things awaiting them this summer.
For Findlay too, greater heights lie ahead. Pun intended.