”A true bard of modern times, Aldred as Cherry Ghost performed for his audience with the utmost professionalism and love for his work, a work which even if the end is proving to be nearer than many would hope, will nonetheless be remembered and cherished with a great fondness and appreciation”
Promoted as one of only two special Christmas shows to be hosted by Bolton-based Cherry Ghost, aka Simon Aldred, and set alongside the growing strength in talk surrounding the impending dissolution of the band, lead to an evening tempered with both hope and expectation. Since the release of 2007’s Thirst For Romance, Aldred has nurtured a reputation as a poet as much as a musician. To many, he has proven himself as one of the UK’s most distinct and evocative artists over the course of not only Cherry Ghost, but also his other alias, Out Cold. With the future of The Kazimier also somewhat clouded by rumours and uncertainty, this evening saw both performer and venue collaborate in a manner which expressed pure artistic clarity and well-and-truly stoked the festive fires ahead of Christmas.
‘This is an experiment’ explains opener and local-lad Johnny Sands as he holds aloft some sort of electronic component. What emerges is a sound and voice which belie the slightly erratic figure on stage, and with this occurring around halfway through his set, Sands has proven himself a quaint yet compelling act with which to begin the evening. Despite the aid of some form of looping equipment, it is when Sands is performing alone with his guitar that he is most engaging and searching, boasting the sort of rich, echoed vocals Ben Howard has trained to a tee. The ‘experiment’ seems to reach peak obscurity during his last track, which sees Sands devolve into an odd mesh of tenderness and electronics – neither of which sitting particularly well with those assembled. Simplicity is best stuck to, and when it is, Sands is truly radiant.
Aldred has been around the block enough times to know that, if the songs are good enough, even the sparsest of arrangements more than suffice. Thus he enters with only the accompaniment of a drummer and keyboardist, allowing his music to be appreciated for the beating heart which sits firmly at the centre of every one of his tracks. Most noticeably altered is ‘Mathematics’ from the first record, a song which Aldred postulates is still his favourite. Stripped of the layers of strings and guitars, its reflective genius is all the more apparent. The introspective and pessimistic aesthetics which comprise ‘My God Betrays’, taken from 2010’s Beneath This Burning Shoreline, and the strained emotion to ‘Thirst For Romance’ are less changed. To merely witness Aldred perform such masterpieces first hand however emphasises any and every dynamic the tracks possess, in the process making them all the more special.
Herd Runners was always going to make up a fair percentage of the set, with the bittersweet ballad ‘Sacramento’ a clear highlight. However, Aldred was sure not to stick to any strict formula, and successfully mixed old and new throughout the evening. Early B-side ‘Throw Them To The Dogs’ was a surprise many die-hards would have killed for. Out Cold single ‘All I Want’ also made an appearance, and as the first track released from Invasion Of Love, which concerned Aldred’s coming out as gay, it resonated all the more deeply among its knowing audience. The festive mood was ensured via the inclusion of a couple of Christmas songs, involving the crowd in a sentimental rendition of ‘Silent Night’, as Aldred proved his performance as well as his writing has developed into something both distinct and important.
The seemingly tentative nature of the crowd was highlighted several times throughout the set, as the contrast with Aldred’s previous show at The Kazimier was emphasised on more than one occasion. However, the hushes and waves of ‘shh’ which emanated from the audience were not those of a crowd which was reserved, but rather one which consciously hung on to every word that came from Aldred’s wisened northern lips. A true bard of modern times, Aldred as Cherry Ghost performed for his audience with the utmost professionalism and love for his work, a work which even if the end is proving to be nearer than many would hope, will nonetheless be remembered and cherished with a great fondness and appreciation.