Katie Buckhaven plus John Dexter Jones And The Steven Twins

Venue : The Stables, Milton Keynes
Date : Thursday 1 October 2009
Date of writing this review : 3 November 2009
Ah, you know what, this is starting to get to me – it should not be taking me a month to write up a gig.  I am lucky in that every gig I go to deserves to be treated better than that – apologies to all concerned for this delay.  It will not be any comfort, but there are some even more delayed than this one.  Anyway…
I had been looking forward to this show since seeing both acts (for free !) at the Black Horse in Lacey Green on a Sunday evening in September.  I had also seen Jump since then at The Peel supporting Darwin’s Radio, and seeing them has always left me wanting more.  And if you cannot have Jump then the next best thing is John Dexter Jones & The Steven Twins, being an acoustic version featuring Jump’s vocalist, John Dexter Jones, and the two guitarists, Stephen Hayes and Steven ‘Ronnie’ Rundle.  Or, as someone in the audience behind me said before the show, when asked who the support band were, “probably someone like Robbie Williams, some new up and coming guy.”  And this really is an audience, not a crowd, as we are seated in Stage 2, the intimate cafe part of The Stables, with the lights merely dimmed.  It is sold out for this show, prompting vocalist John Dexter Jones to comment when they come on, “Anyone fancy a game of sardines ?”.
They open with A Man Was Made, sharp guitar pushing out the melody, the vocals shooting in and then easing along, as the guitar sound circles, still melodic.  The track moves into the chorus with both John and ‘Ronnie’ on vocals, and there really is a wonderful core to this soing.  It moves on into a guitar solo from Ronnie, with a harder edge to the sound, Stephen playing below it, and then flows on, John’s vocals becoming more fervent as the track pushes towards the close, and the guitars strum to an end.  John tells us how the next song is “the only optimistic song we do”, and talks about Ronnie being, “he of the missing solo at the end of that last song”.  “I felt like a change”, replies Ronnie.  They continue on with Rise, the guitar melody bouncing along, with the vocals uptempo, the guitars then rolling along as the vocals move into the chorus, and it flows along upbeat with a light air, running through some quite brilliant lyrics.  It eases into Ronnie picking out a guitar part and then flows on again, pushing into harmony vocals, before easing to a close.
“You’ll be seeing Ronnie all night, so if you do not like what he is doing now…”, says John, because Ronnie is also in Katie’s band.  Next up is Kingston Corner Blues (You Can Go), both guitars flowing away melodic, a percussive sound from Ronnie on the body of his guitar, the vocals pushing on and building the track, sung with a dramatic delivery.  There is a quite beautiful melody running under the forceful vocals, then the sound becomes stacatto before pushing along, pauses, then pushes on again, and the guitars roll on into The Freedom Train, then circling as the vocals flow in on top, as it all pushes along at a steady pace, easing into Ronnie picking out a high, intricate part, then percussion on the body of his guitar as John plays along with tambourine, and a high guitar part eases into just one note to fade to an end.  They finish their set with Free At Last, John introducing it and giving the background story over the top of the strumming guitars, and then it pushes on with the vocals taking it forward, the sound growing as it progresses, building into the chorus, which John has already primed us to sing along to, and then the guitar rolls out of it.  The track builds and grows again, rolling through the narrative of the lyrics, and pushing on into the chorus again and the audience singing along strongly.  John introduces the band as the track marks time below him, and then it pushes on again, building into another chorus with a very big audience participation, and they have clearly taken to the song immediately.  It rolls on into Ronnie picking out a fast, intricate, high part, before easing into one last ‘free at last’ from the audience.  And it brings to an end a very entertaining an accomplished set, which has gone down very well with an audience who I doubt had seen the band before – and add to that, the music they played very much suited the venue.  At the end, John expressed a desire to come back and play the venue as a headline act – I really think The Stables should give that serious consideration.You can catch Jump at a Classic Rock Society show at The Wesleyan Centre in Maltby on 14 November, and at The Nag’s Head in High Wycombe on 28 November – you will need to buy tickets in advance for both gigs if you want to get in.
And so we get to the main act, Katie Buckhaven and her band.  Her band includes Ronnie, and he has changed his stage clothes, but it fools no-one.  She opens with We’re Not The Same, her rich, full vocals and playing her acoustic guitar.  The bass gently rumbles in, keyboards flowing through, the drums tapping with brushes, and then Ronnie’s guitar rolls in.  There is now a big, soft, melodic sound drifting along, the vocals driving it, before it pauses into emotional vocals which push into a rounded guitar solo, with the keyboards flowing through it.  It pushes on harder now, but still has a light, airy feel, before coming to a sudden close.  Next up is Forever Can Wait, the acoustic guitar sound rolling in, with Katie’s vocals almost whispered on top, her vocals moving fast and then soaring.  The electric guitar comes in and the bass thumps, the drums joining with brushes again, and also using his hand on the snare, and it rolls along, all working around Katie’s excellent voice.  She picks out an intricate part on her acoustic guitar and it rolls on to the end.  Then we get “a very new song, written in France this summer”, All That I Remember.  Her acoustic guitar flows in, with her vocals easing in on top of that sound, the vocals wistful, longing.  The drums come in on top, again with brushes for a wonderful sound and feel, the guitar and keyboards flowing underneath, the bass gentle once more, Katie’s wonderful vocals flowing and then piercing, and the track grows and pushes on, creating a very rounded sound as the keyboards roll through.  It pauses as Katie’s vocals dominate, before gently easing on, then growing some more and it sways along to a light, drifting close.  Storms begins with a big melodic sound which forces through, swinging along with the vocals soaring at times, as the guitar cuts through and the keyboards flow.  The hi hat is tapping and the bass flows under it all, before the sound grows and there are harmony vocals with Katie and Ronnie.  It is a wonderfully melodic sound flowing on, upbeat with haunting vocals, and a rounded guitar sound chimes through, echoes, as the cymbals come crashing through, and the sound grows again and soars, the guitar cutting through before the sound eases, and it sways along to the finish.
The acoustic guitar eases in with a piano sound flowing from the keyboards to take us into (Slip Away), before the guitar comes in and the sound gradually builds, as the track drifts along dreamily, everything playing under Katie’s vocals.  Then the piano sound pushes through, working well with the emotional vocals, gentle brush tapping on the drums adding some texture before a lovely little number draws to a close.  “Imagine you are in a desert in America, staring up at the stars”, is the evocative introduction to White Rum, fast acoustic guitar rolling away, the rhythm coming in under the guitar sound and the track buzzes along with a gentle sound as the vocals flow and soar.  It picks up into the chorus, still with a light feel and the vocals dominating, everything flowing under them, and the vocals are so melodic, which such a lovely tone and range.  The track sways along, the guitar starting to push through, and it eases on with a rounded sound from the guitar, then pausing into whispered vocals before it grows again as the vocals soar, and it pushes on to fade to a close.  Katie takes an opportunity before Not Your Type to introduce her band.  Of course, we already know Ronnie on guitar, Steve McDaniel on keyboards, Mark Pittam on bass, and Tim Heymerdinger on drums, and it is the last gig from Tim “before he is deported to Australia for crimes against music”.  The acoustic guitar rolls in light and airy, Katie’s vocals flowing on top and soaring at times.  The keyboards and guitar flow in underneath and cut across, with the bass pulsing and the drums gently tapping.  It eases along with the vocals driving it, melodic, wistful, emotional, and the guitar flows through.  The keyboards start to grow and the bigger sound rolls on as the guitar comes through again with a rounded sound.  The track sways as the vocals go higher, and it then eases down with the guitar still circling through, and it fades to a close.  They continue with Boat Song, gentle acoustic guitar rolling in melodic, with the keyboards following it, with a more pointed sound.  The vocals whisper in as it drifts along, sounds echoing through as the bass rolls under it all, and the track builds as the drums come in.  The guitar is circling as the vocals dominate, and the sound drifts around the vocals, which have an airy edge to them.  Then the sound rises and the track gains more purpose, pushing on now, the keyboards coming through big and rounded, echoing along.  The guitar echoes through with the keyboards as the sound eases into the vocals, then starts to grow again, circling before fading to an end.
The acoustic strums in hard to begin 7 Hours, sharp sounds from the other instruments swirling around it, the drums adding a chaos, the guitar jangling.  The vocals rise and pierce through as the sounds clash around them, the keyboards now crashing in hard, and the drums building as the acoustic strums harder, the bass thumping under it all, as they produce an edgy, dramatic sound with lots of deep parts running under Katie’s vocals.  The guitar echoes through with a sinister, cutting sound, the drums crashing along, with the keyboards adding to the atmosphere, the bass going with the drums, before it eases as the vocals push through again, while the guitar slices in and out.  There are many complex layers creating a set of disturbing sounds, and it is all very powerful as the vocals soar again and it crashes on, before easing down to fade to finish.  A lighter acoustic sound rolls out to begin Not The Way, with Katie’s vocals whispering again.  The keyboards flow along with the vocals as the guitar circles, and the bass gently throbs with the drums.  The track drifts on easily into a piano sound, then rolls aong gently with lovely vocals, before fading to a close.  And Katie announces that she is currently recording Not Your Type, Boat Song, 7 Hours and Not The Way, so that is something to look forward to hearing, and hopefully very soon.  Next up is You Can’t Have It Both Ways, the piano rolling in slowly, whispering vocals echoing on top, and the acoustic guitar flows through and starts to pick up.  The bass throbs in and rolls on, as the drums and guitar join in, and it sways along now with rounded vocals, which soar at times, and runs on with a lovely melody.  The big sound leads into an echoing solo, picked out slowly as the vocals beging to flow through again, and then the track eases down into the vocals with chords from the keyboards, and the acoustic rolls in, leading the way for the other instruments, and it rolls on again before easing, and fadingwith the vocals to an end.
Then comes a wonderful surprise, because I have seen Katie a few times now, but this is the first time I have heard her cover The Crying Game (which I suspect most people will know from the Neil Jordan movie of the same name, rather than the 1964 Dave Berry version which features Jimmy Page on rhythm guitar).  Katie puts down her guitar to sing, and Tim is just on a shaker, as the bass rumbles through and the guitar circles in with the keyboards, but this is all about Katie’s voice, which pushes through gently, melodic, and drifts along beautifully through the song, soaring wonderfully at times, before gently easing to a close.  They continue with Painted A Picture after Katie has retrieved her guitar, the acoustic coming in lively as the keyboards roll and the drums tap.  The guitar circles as the bass pulses and then rolls, and the guitar pushes through as the sound grows.  The vocals are rising and then soaring, and the track sways along as all the parts come together, with a wonderful bassline running under it.  It surges on at times with the guitar pushing through, the drums using brushes as it progresses, and the vocals rolling on top.  There is a lively guitar hook coming through as the track suddenly grows and pushes on, the piano coming through now, and it builds into a rounded sound driving along, before it eases into the drums tapping, and then just the vocals and piano notes to finish.  Katie thanks her band, and John Dexter Jones & The Steven Twins, and also Tim for the sound, and they close out their set with I Told A Lie, the acoustic guitar strumming in with a Spanish feel.  The drums rumble in, and Tim is playing them with his hands.  The bass thumps and the keyboards roll in with the guitar, and they produce an uptempo sound which is driving along, the vocals going into it and pushing, some wonderful melodies within the sound, and it flows away as a guitar part cuts in, before easing into the vocals, the drums then pushing us on again.  It bounces along, light and airy, and Katie’s vocals soar to take it to a dramatic close.The audience call for more, and after a brilliant performance like that, of course they would.  Katie returns to the stage with her acoustic guitar and very gently leads into Raining On The Moon, with wonderfully whispered vocals accompanying the acoustic sound, and the track is full of melody and emotion, and the audience are silent and transfixed.  It eases along, hardly moving, touching into an intricate guitar part, but everything is focused on the vocals, which are sumptuous, perfect, moving so well from deep notes to piercing high notes, always full of melody, and the song and the evening finishes on a lingering note to send us home with very fond memories of an excellent set.You can catch Katie Buckhaven next at The Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead on 27 November – and in my experience her shows always sell out, so I would recommend buying your tickets in advance.

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