Two birds, one Sunday afternoon stone. Motivate myself out of hibernation, pre-dinner time, to step over the threshold of The Southgate Inn, something long overdue. Also, the perfect opportunity to catch It’s Complicated, who, after a fundraiser in Easterton Saturday night came to the longboat of love to show us how they do it. And now, after mentioning and mentioning this Devizes based band, I finally confirm, they do it very well indeed.
Self-described as “not your standard covers band,” (otherwise they would’ve named themselves “It’s Easy,”) is nothing but exact, as vocalist and keyboardist Jacqueline Sherlock rings out an inimitable cover of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean while I’m propping up the bar. I take a sip, this is what they promise, it’s what they delivered, with baubles on.
This place is not Devizes’ answer to an O2 arena, functionally it’s awkward, spacious it’s not, but working with what they’ve got, The Southgate is immediately hospitable, snug and convivial; I’d have expected nothing less. Reason why musicians and bands are queuing up to July to cram themselves in here falls upon Deborah and Dave’s nonchalant and welcoming attitude. If they’ve created a monster with The Southgate, it’s a knobbly-knees and turned-out toes type monster akin to The Gruffalo, rather than anything Dr Frankenstein may’ve stuck electrodes on.
It’s Sunday afternoon and it’s bustling, what they’ve spared not following the grain and converting the Southgate into the standard ostentatious vulgarity of contemporary neon public houses they’ve savoured on atmosphere and a non-stop musical line-up which celebrates everything positive about the local live music scene I’m so often bashing on about. Where other pubs sporadically host live music, you can guarantee Saturday night at the Southgate, Fridays and Sundays following a close second place. Darn it, if even Wednesday night isn’t a family-like acoustic jam down here.
So, this Sunday it’s the turn of It’s Complicated, a band formed a couple of years ago, detached from function band, Friday Feeling. Like a cat at the front door of your new home upon your arrival, they’ve been rehearsing in the Southgate’s skittle alley prior to the new landlords, where they’ve created a unique approach to an assemblage of fantastic cover songs. With flexibly of styles, and wealth of experience, the experimentation has paid off.
Jacqueline sublimely singing Etta James, the band taking a reggae twist to the stark modern Gotye anthem, “Someone that I used to Know,” ongoing ambient rock instrumentals akin to Dire Straits, accompanying Dereck Head through jazzy saxophone splendour, and returning after a break to acutely perform a country tune, I think proves this diversity tenfold.
But as well as stamping their mark on the covers, drummer and vocalist Tim Watts, vocalist and keyboardist Jacqueline Sherlock, guitarist Tom Evans and bass player Stephen Barron work on their own original material. Acknowledging the homegrown nature of the gig, they played Imber, the tribute to Imber Blacksmith Albie Nash, who doctors diagnosed “a broken heart,” when he passed away, chained to his anvil after the army forced the residents to leave the village.
And locally rousing this gig was. In the spirit of the scene, the return from a break guested pre-familiarised Vince Bell, who acoustically sang his chef-d’oeuvre, Ship of Fools, and followed it by a humorous attack on the allure of Devizes, with Tim on Cajon. A few more songs from It’s Complicated and another guest, our heroine Tamsin Quin, joined them for a few of her own tunes from Gypsy Blood, an album of which its launch party called in the help of It’s Complicated to replicate the session band from the studio. Not forgetting her sing-along Jungle Book favourite and seasonal Santa Baby.
Being traditionally bands are often of a similar age, a quick chat with Tim I felt it necessary to inquire if guitarist Tom, was any of the band’s progenies, being an age difference between him and the others. “No,” Tim confirmed there was no family connections, “That’s why we’re complicated.” Had to shrug this off, as it never matters, passion for music doesn’t barrier by age, all that counts are the harmonies and there’s nothing complicated there, it worked, and worked fantastic; what an enjoyable afternoon!
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