This was a bit special. No, change that – this was VERY special. It is Easter Friday, 10 April, and Dave Kilminster – you know, the guitarist of choice for Roger Waters when he is out on the road, the guitarist on the latest Wetton/Downes iCon album, and who also has his own acclaimed album, Scarlet – is playing a free gig in a small cellar bar (named The Cellar Bar) under the Thorpe Lodge Hotel in Peterborough. And I should turn from the guitar hero worship and recognise the other vital member in tonight’s performance, Murray Hockridge, who himself hails from a family with a very fine legacy in both music and entertainment, and who also has an album under his belt (under the band name Hockridge, and recorded with his brother), and who I am encountering for the first time tonight.
‘Intimate’ does not properly describe this venue…it could have been my front room (and, no, I do not have a massive front room). And there I am at the front because in my optimism/pessimism I did not want to be beaten to get there by the crowds. As it turns out, the place is packed by the time they begin, but not with what I would describe as either ‘rock’ or ‘prog’ fans, more with locals. Getting there so early did come with a bonus, because I walk into their soundcheck/warm up, and I am lucky enough to hear them playing away for about 45 minutes, gentle, easy paced bits and pieces, very melodic, allowing me to hear Murray’s wonderfully soulful vocals for the first time, and enjoy hearing them both on acoustic guitar, trying things out, and see Dave trying some very intricate parts – yes, seeing as well as hearing, because some of what he does you have to see to believe how he is doing it. And yet he remains so humble – before things started I asked him if he would sign my copies of the new iCon album and the Anne-Marie helder solo album, as he is on both, and he replied, “yes…oh, I did not mean to sound so surprised !”
They open with their version of Summertime, the George Gershwin aria from Porgy And Bess, with them both on acoustic guitar, and the music flowing before everyone realises that they have started. It is quite fast paced, and Murray’s vocals come in high, a lovely sound, and accompanied by lots of little flourishes from Dave. It rolls along and then quietens, slows, picking up a little with a jazzy feel, airy, then takes off again, more flourishes from Dave as Murray plays the cajon and the track races a little. Lower notes from Dave, rhythmic rather than melodic, then into high, light, echoing notes as it continues to race, more solo touches from Dave, which are wonderful to see him perform from this close up, and Murray’s vocals come back in, definitely with a feel of Sting from his solo work, a fuller sound to the guitar as the track rolls on, and the sound has grown into an epic feel now, more flourishes and stunning fingerwork from Dave, then he is using his eBow for some wonderfully sustained notes and the track softens to a close. They follow that up with one of Murray’s songs, the title track from the Hockridge album, everyoneunderthesun. It has a bouncy feel, a lovely melody from the guitar, and also from Murray’s vocals – which rise above the chatter coming from the back, one of the perils of a free entry – Dave is picking out a nice part which leads into an intricate solo, and there is a full sound to both guitars in a track which is argely dominated by the vocals, gentle paced, rolling along, and Dave has a circling guitar part to finish. Heavy Weather is another Hockridge song, and there is a very relaxed atmosphere to the venue as Murray says, “we’re just going to work this one out”. They ease into the track, using a percussion track on a loop, and there is a rounded sound to the guitar melody, with Murray’s vocals floating over the top. The sound pauses and then kicks off with a harder sound, an easy tempo, before easing, Dave picking out notes as Murray softly sings, then it picks up again and flows along with an easy beat, little flourishes from Dave, then the tempo really picks up, it speeds along, very intricate work on the neck of the guitar with both hands from Dave, and then it eases to a close.
Dave says, “if you need a toilet break then this would be a good time because we’re going to sing one of mine now”, and they open into Chance, from Dave’s solo album, Scarlet. An uptempo opening with Dave on vocals, it is a melodic, gentle number, laid back, airy, the vocals dominating with the guitar working under them. An intricate, fast moving solo builds in intensity then eases us back into the vocals, and the track rolls on to a close. Next up is Beautiful Mind, another song from the Hockridge album, opening with echoing slide from Dave using the eBow, Murray picking out parts on his guitar and feeding them into a loop, and it becomes very atmospheric, the slide going higher, a haunting sound as the vocals come in, both of them singing in parts, giving real body to this track, a great melody running through it as it becomes airy, drifting, floating, with some virtuoso guitar flourishes from Dave as Murray’s vocals soar, then more intricate fingerwork from Dave on the neck, using both hands to close the track with a rippling sound. Murray says he is a big fan of The Police and of Sting, and they are now going to play a classic from their 1983 album, Synchronicity, and they lead gently into King Of Pain. There is a great sound to the gentle guitar intro with the vocals soaring over the top, a laid back, mellow sound, with a swaying feel at times, and Dave picks out the solo as Murray keeps the rhythm going on his guitar, and it is gripping, but there is now so much background chatter that someone (not me this time, if anyone recalls my intervention at the last Tinyfish gig !) feels compelled to give out a BIG shhh – and Murray continues to sing, adding in perfectly, “thank you, can we have another one of those please” – very clever. And while all this is going on, those chatting are missing a most sublime guitar part from Dave – their loss.
They continue with another Hockridge number, Early Warning Sign, a gentle guitar intro, and again Murray’s excellent vocals come in over the top of the guitar sound, so smooth, rich, and the track builds into a very rounded sound, with such a wonderful sound coming from Dave’s guitar, and he really is putting on a masterclass in this performance. The tempo has built up, Murray’s vocals are even fuller now, warm, and his voice rises high at times, showing us his tremendous range. It is rolling along now, into more powerful vocals, a harmony part, and then it eases off, with Dave picking out the melody to close. Dave moves on to his 12-string acoustic for the next one, another Hockridge song, called Barriers Down, and for Murray it is “box time” as he uses the cajon again. It is a gentle paced opening with lovely guitar melodies creating the sound before the vocals come in, Murray then using the cajon as Dave strums out the melody, before the vocals come back in over the top of the sound. It builds, becomes more powerful, then it is bursting out before easing and drifting on, then builds again and really rocks. They have created such a big sound through a very effective use of all the instruments, and within that I certainly include the outstanding vocals. They end the first part of this evening with Dave back on his 6-string acoustic for their version of the Leonard Cohen song, Hallelujah. Dave is picking out the guitar part, the sound is gentle, mellow, but it has depth. Murray’s vocals seem to have some echo to them while the guitar now has a very melodic sound. It gradually builds and the sound grows, becomes more powerful, and Murray is so good at moving the vocals about from low to high and all parts inbetween, from being soft to being louder and more powerful. Dave picks out a gentle, considered part and then the track eases along again, gradually building once more, a powerful surge before it settles to a close with a flourish from Dave and a lovely vocal part from Murray. The crowd erupt with applause, and a well earned break is taken by Murray and Dave.
As we are waiting for them to start up again, Murray is tapping out the intro to Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song on the cajon, but it is still a wonderful surprise to hear Dave strumming out a gentle intro to Rain Song, and he provides the vocals for a laid back version, bass notes rumbling through from his acoustic, an intensity building within his strumming, and then it rolls as he picks out the notes, Murray comes in on the cajon and it really takes off, Dave’s vocals becoming more strident, before the track eases off back to simply Dave and his acoustic, with occasional light beats from Murray. It has been a very enjoyable, sublime version of a classic track. They follow that with another Hockridge number, Can’t Get Through, some gentle strumming, easy paced, melodic, airy, definitely has the feel of some of Sting’s early solo work, and it sways along until the tempo picks up into some flourishes from Dave. Symbol is another track from the Hockridge album, a rhythmic opening with the notes being picked out by Dave, a pointed beat, almost stacatto, and it gently eases along with a lovely underlying melody and great vocals from Murray. Dave’s solo has a Spanish feel, plus faster, more intricate parts, and the track continues with more flourishes from him before he brings us back to the main melody. Murray encourages the audience to join in with the simple chorus, and then slightly changes it himself to “out of my head, out of my mind, out of my life, the cd’s only £10”. The next song is also on the album, and is a cover of Elton John’s Rocket Man. Here, Dave uses his slide for the intro, gentle, mellow, gradually building, the notes floating out into the room, and then he is picking out notes inbetween slide parts while Murray’s vocals grow, occasionally soaring. The track moves slowly, building in substance, a wonderful sound to it, and now Murray is picking out the melody on his guitar, while Dave is using his to create the atmosphere, and gradually again it eases to a close, with Dave moving the slide in spirals down the strings, and Murray sums up the feelings of the audience when he says, “I feel so chilled now”.
They were about to go into one of Dave’s solo numbers when thereÂ is some distraction as a member of the audience, a little the worse for drink, calls for them to play something by The Beatles. Dave suggests this might be the track The Beatles would have written…and Murray begins Hey Jude on his guitar, singing “Hey, Dave, shall we do one of your tunes instead ?” Then someone else in the audience calls out for Walking On The Moon, and Dave starts the tune on his guitar, Murray joining in on cajon and vocals, before Dave brings that to an end with “far too much fun”, and goes into Heartbreaker instead. Finally, Dave is on his 12-string and says, “this is one of my tracks. It’s called Angel”, and seems surprised when I cheer. It’s an uptempo strumming intro with Dave on vocals for this excellent song from his Scarlet album. The sound is really full as his vocals build and soar into the chorus. There is a beautiful melody and now a great combination of vocals as Murray comes in and the track rolls along. Next up is a new song, Who Am I ?, which they will be recording soon, and a version is already up on YouTube. There is a tapping intro, in a loop, with the guitar playing over the top of that. It has an uptempo feel, rolling along with the vocals really pushing through at times. There is a gentle feel within the track, and a real sense that it is growing. And it is easy to feel your foot tapping along as it moves on and grows. It eases into a melodic guitar part, with the vocals again flowing over the top of that sound, then picks up and moves on, the guitar sound circling as the vocals play about, then the tempo fastens and it rolls, before easing to a close. They close an excellent set with The Stuff That Keeps Me Standing, another track from the Hockridge album, which, on the strength of tonight’s set, you should buy. I know I did. The audience are clapping along to the uptempo intro, and the vocals come in very bouncy, funky, the track racing along with little flourishes from Dave. Murray’s vocals are so smooth, and moving easily between levels, and the sound is really building, as Dave plays a bit of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor on the guitar neck, while miming a keyboard action with his other hand. Murray comes in on the cajon and now Dave is doing some funky slapping on his guitar. The sound eases but the tempo stays the same, now more of a Spanish feel to the guitar, easing down each time before moving on to another phase, moving seemlessly though each phase is a little different to the next. And then we are moving into Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, Murray’s vocals subdued yet flowing, Dave’s guitar almost stacatto, the cajon coming in again as we drift, mellow, it quietens again, almost fades, then the tempo surges and we are racing off into Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up, the audience clapping along again, frenetic guitar from Dave, wonderful, piercing vocals from Murray, really suiting the song. Murray’s guitar is giving the tempo and providing the basic melody, while Dave’s is jumping all around it, over it, through it, weaving, moving into a more considered solo, but still keeping that racing pace, and his hands are all over the neck, it truly is an awesome display, and the cajon has come back in but Dave is still weaving around, still racing along, and Murray’s vocals are growing again, then soaring, before it all cuts and eases to a close. The audience erupt with applause and there is a loud, concerted cry for more.
They may as well play an encore because the venue is so intimate they cannot get out until we move out of their way, and we are not letting them go until they do ! Murray says, “this is a soul classic” and they break into a mellow, laid back, very easy, flowing version of Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together. It is another song which really suits Murray’s excellent vocals, and he appears to revel in it. Meanwhile, Dave throws out some big bass notes and then builds the treble notes over the top of them as they are sustained – well, it leaves me awestruck. And he produces some very enjoyable floursishes to take us to the end of the song. They finally bring proceedings to a close with a very enjoyable version of Simon And Garfunkel’s The Boxer, Murray playing around with the vocals, lots of guitar flourishes from Dave, as they are clearly both enjoying performing as much as the audience are enjoying their performance. The guitar sound is quite gentle, allowing the vocals to roll over the top, and while it builds into the chorus there is still a gentle feel, and everyone is singing along, enjoying a real end of the evening closer, and it gradually fades to an end. It has been a most enjoyable experience, and a great introduction to a true talent in Murray Hockridge. It will be very interesting to see what he and Dave produce together.
You can catch them at the Cambridge Rock Festival and at the Memories Of Woodstock event in Shrewsbury, both over the weekend of Friday 7 August.