Even with the tang of Spring in the air, a Monday evening in North London isn’t a gig-goer’s first choice evening for live entertainment, and despite the bill on offer The Islington could comfortably accommodate more of us within its walls. Needless to say, only those who didn’t accept the invitation will feel the loss. John Blek and Vikesh Kapoor have travelled through Ireland and the UK together, their British and American themes blending well over the course of a tour that provides cultural counterpoint for the listener to discuss in the bar afterwards.
Blek makes reference to the difference early in his support slot, suggesting the Irish sing a lot of songs about drinking and sex (who knew?), in stark comparison to Vikesh’s grittier themes, of which more later. Jokes aside, Blek has a good voice and uses it to full effect on Calling Out Your Name and the soulful Mrs Black and Blue Eyes. The melodies are simple and aimed at finding their target without diversion. Crucify Me, a tale of how to survive as an Irish Catholic, is sung with a tambourine providing the only accompaniment, but the stand out is Portland To Oregon, a slow walk through the first steps in an American town, patterned with images of a relationship. Valerie deserves mention, as does his closer, The Barmen, The Barfly and Me, evidence that his earlier musing on subject-matter wasn’t just for laughs.
Kapoor, resplendent in a wool suit that seemed like a good idea at the time of purchase but is possibly a little too much insulation for the unseasonably mild weather, starts with Ode To My Hometown, it’s ‘..our home town is dead’ refrain accidentally reflecting the size of the crowd. His voice is stronger than last year and his tales of isolation, lost dreams and struggle to stay afloat continue to reference the late 60s Greenwich Village set and a world that some will tell you no longer exists. Bottom Of The Ladder suggests different and benefits from increased dynamics and attack from the guitar, presumably another impact of the constant touring since his last visit to the UK.
Grateful for the warm reception, he mentions feeling rejuvenated by the tour, and delivers I Dreamt The Blues, the lovely Blue Eyed Baby and Carry Me Home with increasing confidence, extending his voice to an, until now, hidden angry register on The Ballad Of Willy Robbins. Blek is asked to join him for I Never Knew What I Saw In You, introduced as a song for those who build their certainties on loose ground.
There are plenty of songwriters sharing their views on the modern world, and plenty who aren’t shy of telling it like it is; Kapoor’s seemingly old-fashioned approach may appear anachronistic but his passion for the message is clear and the belief in his material absolute. New song (Sharine?) has a touch of mid-Beatles ballad about it and closes a set that acts as a reminder for the quality of his debut album. Where he goes from here will be interesting to watch; it’s to be hoped that wherever it is, it’s to a packed house.
‘Monday Monday, sometimes it just works out that way.’
Review by: Paul Woodgate
A recent video of their tour during a visit to Rollercoaster Records in Kilkenny: