Cloud Atlas don’t play live that often, especially outside of York, so it’s well worth catching them when they do. On Sunday 16th August they came to one of the temples of the grassroots rock scene, Bilston Ronin 2
Support was singer-songwriter Howard Sinclair. He normally performs as a solo acoustic artist, but this gig was a rare opportunity to see him with a full band, which included Morpheus Rising’s Paul “Gibbo” Gibbons on drums. The result was a highly entertaining set, the songs fleshed out with the addition of a rhythm section and some bluesy lead guitar but still retaining a stripped-back singer-songwriter flavour. One highlight was “Bedsheets & Bad Luck” with Howard on piano and a great guest vocal performance from Wednesday S on the song sung by Touchstone’s Kim Seviour on record.
Cloud Atlas began with by playing live what many other bands would have run as an intro tape, a long intro of low whistle and e-bowed guitar before Martin Ledger lauuched into the riff of “Searchlight”, the rock epic that defines Cloud Atlas’ sound; a huge guitar sound, soulful vocals, a strong rhythm section and great use of atmospherics. There were many moments where Martin Ledger’s melodic and fluid effects-laden guitar recalled the playing of Marillion’s Steve Rothery.
The set consisted of the album “Boyond the Vale” in it’s entirety plus the Stolen Earth oldie “Soul in a Jar” and a remarkable solo acoustic cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” so radically reworked that it wasn’t instantly recognised. The material comes over powerfully live, played with fire and passion, and benefitted from the sort of clear sound we’ve come to expect from this venue.
They finished with an impressive “Stars” with its guitar-shredding climax, after which the crowd weren’t willing to leave without hearing more. But the band had no more songs, so Martin Ledger put it to an audence vote on what song we wanted to hear again. The choice was “Soul in a Jar”.
So finished a great gig by a band who really deserve a wider audience. They’ve probably reached the stage when they need more material if they’re to play headline-length shows. At some point there will be a follow-up to “Beyond the Vale” and there will be new songs in the set. In the meantime, perhaps the band should consider rehearsing an interesting cover or two to play as encores?