Live at Esquires: Belated Christmas Pressie from Gaz Brookfield

Featured Photo credit: Jus Carroll

It’s been far too long since Bristol-based singer-songwriter Gaz Brookfield has had a mention on our pages, so here’s a belated Christmas present from this amazing performer, a name-your-price download of a live album you’ll be sorry to have missed out on otherwise.

Of course, I only say belated because I’ve failed to mention it between munching on Quality Street until only toffee pennies and empty wrappers remain, and putting batteries in things, for Gaz released this Christmas Eve. It’s recorded live at Esquires in Bedford, back in November as part of a tour whereby his Patreon page members chose the setlist. So, expect a mixture of the best songs old and new, but be safe in the knowledge they’re accomplished acoustically. Without backing from The Company of Thieves, here is Gaz, warts, and all, as he apologises for a sore throat but, as you could imagine if you’ve seen this character before, still manages to pull a blinder.

I honestly didn’t expect to pick up on tracks I’d recall, but was reminded of one particularly adroitly written chef-d’oeuvre, The Tale of Gunner Haines, a true story of a solider assigned to Somerset’s Brean Down Fort, who was reprimanded for reporting in late from an unauthorised leave, due to a flat tyre on his bicycle, and promptly took 5,000 lbs of gunpowder and blew himself and the barracks to smithereens.

If this comes across rather Ralph McTell or Eric Bogle, historical narratives are a scarcity in Gaz’s repertoire, rather drawing influences from everyday observations and personal reflections. And to argue these subjects are cliché, I’d nod, but allow me thus, Gaz does it so incredibly well, the thoughts and observations of many others pale by comparison. So, as every good live album should, there’s abridged chat, confidently amusing and relative, and then there’s these ingenious prose pieces of aging and his youth, of medical issues, his affection for the ordinary from maps to gardening, and much to deliberate on the matter of being a musician on the road, self-deemed a “land pirate,” and particularly amusing when character assassinating drunks at his gigs.

Within it, Gaz states he follows a serious song with a “silly” one, but the lines between sentimental and amusing are blurred, you take what you want from each, for if a good sign for the performer who uses the tenet of personal reflection as topic is that you come away from listening thinking you know the person, Gaz will seem like your best mate. This open fellow is a lively Billy Bragg at his peak, a West Country Springsteen of storytelling, with the carefree attitude to pigeonholing of James Taylor and the coolness of Leonard Cohen. The sum of these parts is a highly entertaining show.

If this live recording shouldn’t be treated as comprehensive, but a teaser for you to explore more of his discography, I guarantee you’ll come away from it wanting more.


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