Brothers in arms
By Andrew Woodger
Tom Baxter performed with his younger brother Charlie Winston in Halesworth in 2007, but since then Tom's become a star. As a result their show at the Norwich Arts Centre was probably one of the last chances to see them together in an intimate venue.
With the success of the single Better and the album Skybound, Bungay's singer-songwriter Tom Baxter has found himself back on a major label. He's been doing a tour of smaller venues with support from his brother Charlie Winston - and, unsurprisingly, the Norwich Arts Centre in March 2008 was sold out.
The venue had a celebratory local-boy-done-good feeling about it and the stage banter made it clear there were family and friends present. A case of the offspring making their parents go to church on Sunday?!
Medi & The Medicine Show opened proceedings. Medi looks like a young Cat Stevens and his cascading black curls seemed to have the female element in the audience purring. It came as a bit of a surprise when Medi admitted to being French - he sings in English, but perversely has a song called Excuse My French.
Hat and waistcoat
Charlie Winston, who'd played with a full band supporting Peter Gabriel at Blicking last year, was on his own in Norwich and he's certainly got the talent to match his brother's recent success.
He's also got a fine line in banter which matches his quirkier songs such as My Life As A Duck. He managed to get a bemused and amused audience to sing along to the chorus - creating a kind of surreal version of evensong in the decommissioned religious building.
Behind the slightly comical image is a serious songwriter with a voice which has a big range - capable of dislodging any lead from the roof.
The highlight was his plaintive piano song Boxes which, like most of the songs, is from his album Make Way. I was disappointed not to hear the extremely catchy Generation Spent, but we can console ourselves with the version Charlie recorded for BBC Suffolk by clicking on the links on this page.
And so to Tom Baxter's triumphant 'homecoming' with his four other band members. He's spent various parts of his life in Norwich, Bungay, Woodbridge and regaled us with a tale of how the song A Day In Verona was actually inspired by walking by the River Waveney with his first love.
His music avoids becoming bland MOR singer-songwriter fare by having a darker side and for me the best parts were when he puts down his acoustic and lets rip on the electric guitar. It's these soaring moments which make you think of Jeff Buckley rather than any of the host of bland singer-songwriters doing the rounds.
What could be an overwrought gig of songs about failed relationships is livened by Tom's explanations. His description of "all those relationships which follow the first one - you know - the nutters" had most of the audience cracking up.
He blotted his copy book by being a bit over critical of the audience for not participating loudly enough. He compared us unfavourably with an Irish audience, which, while it may be true, seemed a bit harsh on paying customers. After all, it was the end of the weekend and we'd been standing in church for over two hours.
He also made the mistake of saying maybe it was because it was Suffolk, before realising the error of his ways!
Throw in a six-man chiming handbell section and we were treated to a singer who seems to be enjoying his rise. A move to larger theatres certainly looks likely throughout the rest of 2008.
If there's any justice the same will be happening to Charlie Winston, or indeed to American Music Club who're playing the same venue later in March.
last updated: 03/03/2008 at 17:12
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