Jamie Yost + Olly Parker Trio + Jack Cookson & Calvin Thomas + Roz Birch @ the Barbican Theatre, Plymouth – 27th April 2018

At the top of a narrow, granite staircase leading off the historic Barbican quarter of Plymouth there is a set of orange doors that leads in to a small Thai restaurant called the B-Bar. At the back of this restaurant there is a staircase that leads you through a plastic floral corridor and then suddenly, somehow, you arrive in a tall, luxurious theatre space which feels like a hidden, almost secret space where like-minded people can gather together to share ideas and relax without fear of being reported on by the oppressive regime. The space is called the Barbican Theatre and I may have been watching two many World War II documentaries.

Roz Birch
Anyhow, we are gathered here tonight at a sold-out show to witness the unveiling of the debut EP from the super talented Jamie Yost but before the show, it is customary to have a little dinner. The starter is served up by Roz Birch and her music is food for the soul. Armed with only a piano and a voice that could soothe the most savage of beasts, Birch set about soothing the frazzled, end-of-week nerves of the sell-out crowd. Songs from her new EP ‘Precious Gifts’ are scattered throughout a set full of superb original material that shows Birch to be a soulful, blues tinged artist of high class who is willing to plumb the depths of the heart to get to the raw emotion of a song. The most glorious thing about this opening set as an appetiser for the evening is how Birch’s voice fills the vast space of the theatre and simultaneously keeps the entire audience hanging on her every note. Delicious.

Jack Cookson & Calvin Thomas
Now, for the main course you want something with complex but complimentary flavours that leaves you satisfied yet still wanting more. Let’s lift the cloche and reveal the tasty delights of Jack Cookson & Calvin Thomas. One looks like beatnik poet from 50s America while the other could have been playing the blues on the back of a trawler in the mid-Atlantic, but both can play guitar and both have winning smiles. Hungry yet? As the two companions trade songs with each other, it’s impossible not to get drawn in to their world of gentle folk, well observed lyrics and wry humour. There is some banter about sharing socks and the wetness of harmonicas which turns the cavernous theatre space in to the cosiest of gigs talking the whole audience with them on their meandering journey, complete with wrong turns and scenic routes.

Olly Parker
The dessert is always a ‘will-we-won’t-we’ moment but it’s always impossible to resist when there’s a fresh trio on offer – step forward the Olly Parker Trio. This is the first outing for the three-piece with the songs centred around the acoustic songs of Parker but embellished subtly yet beautifully by the ambient guitar notes of Fergus Tanner and the sombre Cello of Joss Etty. Parker’s songs have matured from his solo material in to an ambient indie-folk style with the additional musicians giving the sound a fuller, more rounded vibe and you can’t help but be swept away in to the soundscapes within the songs. There’s something genuinely exciting about watching a band emerge from their chrysalis in front of you and tonight the Olly Parker Trio became a butterfly. Maybe a butterfly cake, that’s a dessert isn’t it?

So, that’s dinner over with and I’m stuffed but now it’s time for the show so pull up a chair. Jamie Yost is a Torquay native who has been adopted by Plymouth and he’s quickly become one of the leading lights of the city’s burgeoning music scene. Surrounded by some of the most talented musicians the city has to offer, Yost nervously straps on his guitar and welcomes the crowd to rapturous applause. Working through a set of his own songs, Yost shows a soulfulness and depth far beyond his years not to mention a voice that could melt a heart at a hundred paces. Switching effortlessly between electric and acoustic (traditional and lap), Yost also spends some time sitting behind a piano and you have to wonder at the musical ability of a man who has clearly spent just as much time crafting the songs as he has practicing the art of playing. There is a spine-tingling moment when the sell-out crowd sings the chorus of recent single ‘Stay’ back at Yost, nearly knocking him off his stride, but it’s no surprise as it’s a serious hook with mass appeal.

Jamie Yost
The band take a well-earned break and so Yost treats us to some solo material including early song ‘Small Town’ about growing up in his native Torquay. As the band re-join their leader, the set builds to a triumphant and atmospheric climax with the drumming of Dan Johnson adding an intensity that burrows in to your every sense. A standing ovation closes out the night and we’re left in no doubt that we’ve just witnessed the transition of a musician moving from promising local talent to serious contender and it was a delight to be part of.

More information:

All photos by the Lazy Photographer – https://www.facebook.com/thelazyphotographers/
The Barbican Theatre - https://www.barbicantheatre.co.uk/