Live Music + Gig Reviews

Neil Halstead @ Arts Cafe, London

15 January 2002

Neil Halstead Mojave 3’s Neil Halstead performed solo in London for the second time in a month, this time at the tiny Arts Cafe. Promoting the release of his debut solo album, Sleeping On Roads, Halstead cut a romantic figure. His white t-shirt emphasised his tan, acquired during years of surfing near his home and studio in Newquay, Cornwall.

Breathy vocals and fragile guitar picks washed over the attentive audience. All was going fine until the appearance of an unruly new harmonica, finished in blue plastic and perched on his chest. Halstead shyly advised the audience to avoid blue harmonicas, as he switched to a harmonica-free song.

He used just one guitar, despite the need for varied tunings during the set, and his memory lapse during the Mojave 3 song In Love With A View was also a tad unfortunate. Yet between these mishaps was a very impressive set which won the audience.

Songs with road movie rhythms benefited most from Halstead’s soothing vocals, Seasons and Sleeping On Roads being the best developed of these. Elsewhere, light and airy tracks such as Two Stones In My Pocket perfectly married dreamy musical arrangement with dream-laden lyrics of hope and regret.

With ex-Slowdive partners Rachel Goswell and Ian McCutcheon and a vocal collection of groupies and media fans in the audience, Halstead was amongst friends. His shy, between-songs explanations and apologies had the audience eating out of his hand. They were delivered in an endearingly self-effacing manner. He finished the set with stand-out new track See You On Rooftops. This new, lyrically beautiful song translated well to a live acoustic setting.

Leaving the stage to chat with his audience, one felt that more than his music is accessible. At the Arts Cafe, Neil Halstead offered his heart.

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Neil Halstead – Sleeping On Roads