It had been in our calendars for a few weeks, things had been very hectic and I just hadn’t had time to prepare as I normally would for a gig, I took some time to quickly checkout Facebook (107000 followers) and Twitter (75000), my heart rate increased, should I be frantically prepping an interview for this popular young, handsome singer songwriter from Oxfordshire or shall I keep things low key and stay back and soak up the atmosphere? Only time would tell!
Upon arriving at the venue, I was surprised to see a queue, not that the Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre hasn’t had queues before, but a queue outside? In all of the years that I have been to shows at the Phoenix, I had never seen one like this before, it was so long, maybe I had completely underestimated just how popular Lewis Watson really was!
We stood at the merchandise table, chatting to a lovely young lady about T-Shirts, records and mugs (I suppose you could call it a ‘merch’ meeting) when an official looking gentleman came and stood next to me, I was in the process of trying to track Lewis Watson’s manager down for a quick chat and I asked if he was him, it transpired it wasn’t but he WAS the manager of the opening act, Andreas Moe. We chatted for a few minutes, we explained what we were there for and of course, he asked me if I would like to interview Andreas after his set.
We hadn't prepared for an interview with anyone but being the professionals that we are, we had soon written a few questions (with a little help from Wikipedia, Facebook and Twitter), prior to sitting down and chatting to him, with at least some knowledge of who he was, what he has done and why he was here!
We took our usual spot to the side of the stage, surprised to see that they had opted NOT to install a barrier, not that this really made a great deal of difference, it did make things a little trickier for our photographer to get some decent close up shots of the acts as they tended to stand ‘stage left’ rather than ‘stage right’ where we were stood. Being the consummate professional that he is, he was able to worm his way through the crowd to capture some stunning shots for the feature.
The front 3 rows were made up of young female Lewis Watson fans, the average age must have been 16-18, did we feel like a pair of dad’s waiting for 10pm to pick up our children from the Youth Club….Yes, were we old enough to be their dad’s….Yes, was I old enough to be Lewis Watson’s dad….Yes! despite all this, we were there to do a job and remained 100% professional throughout.
Andreas Moe took to the stage and played his set that consisted of many tracks themed around love, ‘How You Say It’ was a track about how you break up with a partner, the Exeter ladies advised that he just say ‘Bye’ rather than writing a song about it (always were a classy lot the Exeter maids!)
It soon became apparent that he was a hit with the first 3 rows, the girls were loving every second of his set and the in-between song banter was going very well for him. As the songs followed, so did his Facebook fan numbers, you could literally hear them racking up as his set progressed. I even heard an ‘I Love You’ which was a great way of saying ‘you’ve got us in the palm of your hands, do with us what you will’, Andreas was a true gentleman about the whole thing and thanked the crowd for coming and getting there early so that they could listen to him play.
I read that his looks have been compared to those of James Dean, I dare say that this may have had something to do with the female attention on the night, maybe I’m just jealous as the only comparison I get is that I look like Kevin James from ‘Mall Cop’ without the moustache, whatever.....bovvered?!
A break in acts meant that we were able to get backstage and have a good chat with Andreas, (you can read the interview HERE), I would like to say that we were sat in the Green Room with a rider that consisted of platters of fresh fruit, seafood and various delicacies from far flung islands, accessible only by motor boat in the dead of night, in reality, we were stood next to the fire exit where the next band were busy bringing the gear in from their tour bus…..fun fun fun !!!
We finished up with Andreas, thanked him for his time and took to our original location side of stage to see what the next act ‘Amber Run’ were all about.
Hailing from Nottingham, this male five piece rock act consisting of the staple instruments (guitar/bass/keys/drums/rhythm guitar and vox) were soon to prove that they had earned the right to be up on that stage, warming the crowd prior to the arrival of Lewis Watson. They count Reading & Leeds Festival as one of their ‘early gigs’ and received a great deal of attention after supporting Kodaline on their March 2014 tour.
Their sound was akin to the stadium sized guitar led melodies of Coldplay, as I write this feature, I see that they were previously referred to as ‘Nottingham’s answer to Coldplay’ which made me smile as I am obviously on the same wavelength as the other reviewer!
I was asked by the band’s manager to stand in the crowd for a track called ‘I Found’ which was a beautifully presented piece of work complete with a 4 part vocal harmony that sounded absolutely stunning.
Other tracks that stood out from the set were ‘Noah’ and ‘Pilot’, the latter track is the title track of their new EP that was released on September 21st and is available from iTunes right now for the princely sum of just £1.99 (you can’t even get half a lager for that now so go forth and purchase folks!).
They left the stage to rapturous applause, deservedly so, this is an act that are going to do very well indeed, I hope to speak to them soon as I’d love to feature them in our ‘Introducing’ section.
Breaking this time for a good 30 minutes to allow the first 3 rows to go and top up their ‘lip-gloss’ and have a comfort break prior to Lewis gracing them with his presence, we were able to chat with Lewis’s manager about the tour and the venues that he was playing, you can see a full list of UK, European and North American dates HERE.
Lewis’s band took to the stage a split second before he did, when he stepped out, the front 3 rows went mad, screaming and hollering as he slung his guitar over his shoulder and kicked off his set with the opening track ‘Stones Around the Sun’.
The setlist consisted of a great mix of songs from the older EP’s aswell as tracks lifted from his recently released debut album ‘The Morning’. He played a couple of new tracks, these included ‘When the Water Meets the Mountains’ and it was strange to not see the crowd singing along to every word that came out of Lewis’s mouth (as they did for just about every other track).
From reading previous live reviews, I was waiting for the moment when he jumped down from the stage and played acoustically in the middle of the room, from gauging the excitement levels of the crowd, I pictured images of Lewis being dragged back to the stage, clad only in his underwear after the ravenous pack had finished with him, safe to say that he remained on stage throughout the gig.
His band played brilliantly, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get any of their names but I would like to highlight the skills of the female keyboard player who joined Lewis at the front of the stage to play a stunning version of his track ‘Halo', absolutely spellbinding stuff!
As the set progressed, the adoration for Lewis grew stronger, the in-between song chatter was becoming more and more personal, there were various mentions of ‘I love you Lewis’ and others that I will not go into now….. I am certain he was talking about pugs (dogs) but then someone was asking him about a bath plug, maybe they were chatting about plugs, Lewis did go on to say that he thought that pugs/plugs were ugly and that someone needs to love them and he would like to have a go?! I did see a picture of him holding a pug on his Instagram page, maybe he WAS talking about dogs after all…..it was late, I was tired!
Lewis had come to the end of his setlist, he announced that this was the best opening night of a tour that he had ever played and asked the crowd to pose for a picture, they did so willingly, you can see the image below:
He launched into his last track ‘Into the Wild’ which energised the crowd, bringing them on board and carrying Lewis through the chorus. Then, 90 minutes after he took to the stage, he was gone. Fans clambered onto the stage to grab the set lists, no doubt destined for eBay the following morning and in a few minutes, the auditorium was, once again peaceful.
I managed to nip backstage after the gig to chat to Lewis (you can read the interview HERE) and he was kind enough to sign a copy of his record (on limited edition clear vinyl nonetheless).
Lewis is a really down to earth guy, he loves music and people love him for that, he is set to play loads more dates throughout the UK prior to hitting Europe and even North America later in the year. If you get a chance to see him on this tour, do so as the next time he does the rounds, it will be an arena tour where you’ll not be able to get as 'up close and personal' with him.
What About Today?
Sink or Swim
Nothing at All
When the water meets the mountains
Into the Wild
Review by Steve Muscutt
All photographs © Julian Baird 2014 www.julianbaird.com