Saturday, April 24, 2010
EAST BRUNSWICK CLUB
An unseasonal tropical rainstorm doesn't stop punters from turning up early to see the new-to-the-scene opening act of pianist Micaiah. Though the East is an awkwardly cavernous venue to feel comfortable in at the best of times, Micaiah does a decent job of overcoming the 10 meters or so between himself and the shadowy audience with his warm and convivial presence, qualities reflected in his music. Though his and the band’s musical talent is unquestionable, the accessibility of his synth-piano-led pop songs aren’t memorable enough to leave a lasting impact. Despite this, it’s easy to imagine radio liking them and finding wings in the hands of the right producer.
Picking Brendan Welch as a support act is a brave move on the part of Young Werther, given Welch’s canyon-rumbling voice and the evocative lyrics he pens to match. The wayward rambling songs ebb and flow beneath, Closed Communities is striking in its dynamic shifts, Halls of Men is full of blazing imagery and his band are on top form. Welch appears like an alter boy who's endured a decade on a farm and feels compelled to sing of his reflections. Such authority is invested in his words that when he sings a Handsome Family or Woody Guthrie song he is compelling in a way few singers could hope to be.
By the time Michael Young (aka Young Werther) takes to the stage, four-piece band filing in behind, the venue is decidedly less empty. Here to launch his Knights of the Department Store album, it soon becomes apparent that Young is still adapting his voice to a rock setting. In highlighting chugging rhythms, full-bodied piano chords and twin guitar chops, the songs sound cluttered and their impact muted. That said, as soon as they allow some space to creep in, it’s mesmerizing watching the themes tenderly unravel. In these sections his Drake-esque warmth and intricate guitar work are powerfully present. Georgia Fields joins for a spirited take on Been Around the World and when Young strips it back to a solo acoustic take midway through set (or ‘visit to Folkland’ as he calls it) it's a room-hushing highlight. The band return for a lush and restrained rendering of Cornish Green, and the encore of Brothers in Harms Way shows just how gifted Young is as a songwriter and player and suggests the best is yet to come.