LIVE: Tony Wright, Pete Spiby – The Lantern, Halifax 28/11/2018
In an age where live music venues are constantly under threat of closure, it’s a real pleasure to experience a new one, and The Lantern, (which recently opened its doors in central Halifax), is giving the locals something to be optimistic about. A cosy bar with a 150-capacity music venue upstairs, it’s no wonder erstwhile Terrorvision frontman Tony Wright has picked this place as the latest stop on his acoustic tour of the UK.
First up tonight is former Black Spiders and Groop Dogdrill frontman Pete Spiby, offering us as he puts it “40-odd minutes of your lives you won’t get back”. Very much self-deprecating, Spiby wheels out songs from both his recent Failed Magician record and the Black Spiders back catalogue, keeping chat to a minimum in favour of a set of mesmerising blues-rock belters.
Prepping for a run of full-band electric dates over the next couple of weeks, Spiby is no less powerful a proposition solo, and fans will be familiar with his most recent material in this format since Failed Magician came with a handy acoustic bonus version for early adopters. Spiby himself seems surprised at how well songs such as Bible Studies, Lightning Bolt and Friday Night work in this setting, the sound reverberating around beautifully as he veers between husky lounge singer and impassioned bluesman effortlessly. He even manages to quickly hush some latecomers by reducing Why Not Let Them Come to a whisper until you can hear a pin drop. Mixing in Black Spiders’ St Peter and a cover of Soundgarden’s Hunted Down, Spiby’s set draws to a close and not a single person present believes it’s been time wasted whatsoever.
Walking up the stairs to the gig, punters are greeted by a mural featuring The League Of Gentlemen’s Les McQueen and his immortal slogan “It’s a shit business.” Well, Tony Wright may have had some ups and downs over the past three decades of his career, but tonight he’s full of the good stuff as he plows through songs and stories that contain passion, humour and damn fine songwriting in equal measure.
Keeping largely to material from his most recent two solo records with the odd Terrorvision classic thrown in, Wright is on excellent form, quickly getting a slightly subdued crowd laughing, singing and clapping along. Songs such as Self Portrait, The Blues and Little Things may not be as familiar to some as the big 90s hits, but they’re all fervently delivered and show an intriguingly mellow side to the frontman. There’s also an opportunity to air a new track, provisionally titled Brexit At Tiffany’s, which is surprisingly biting in its critique of our leaders with its “Doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always get in” refrain.
Even if you’ve seen Wright on his previous solo tours, there’s still plenty of new material when it comes to his tales too. Highlights tonight include altercations with Prince on Top Of The Pops, his love of Mini Babybels and enough tongue in cheek barbs at his long-suffering cohort Milly Evans to make the crowd simultaneously “awwwwww” in sympathy. For someone renowned for his quick wit, sarcasm and punnery, there are also some surprisingly tender and touching moments too in the shape of a powerful Do You Love Me, the adorable Love Hold On and an ardent cover of Bowie’s Moonage Daydream.
Of course, no Tony Wright set is complete without the classics and as we move swiftly to last orders, Tone just about finds time to crack through Friends & Family, Tequila, Perseverance and Alice What’s The Matter?, providing more bounces than you’d expect at any acoustic show. It’s another triumphantly joyous gig from the frontman, providing an intimate and heartwarming insight into his past present and future. Roll on the big shows with the full band next year.
Text and photos copyright Nick Spragg.