Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Impossible Gentlemen, Royal Northern College of Music

RNCM, Manchester. 15th October 2013

It was another historic night on 15th October 2013 at the Royal Northern College of Music; the best Impossible Gentlemen concert so far and a night to match the intensity of guitarist Mike Walker’s Ropes suite from 2008. Being home to Salford born Walker and closely associated with pianist and ex-Chets student Gwilym Simcock, Manchester always has the potential to be memorable, both players being well known and well loved locally. On this night there really seemed to be a sense that something special was about to occur.

Drummer Adam Nussbaum began the proceedings with a sharp snare drum crack into an exciting and powerful take on the Birdland like figures of new track ‘Modern Day Heroes’.  Walker started as he meant to go on with an attention-grabbing overdriven solo that set the scene for much to follow. Another new track, ‘Just To See You’, opened with a delicate and introspective octavided guitar introduction backed by a psychedelic Hammond organ drone part from Simcock. The opening segued into a graceful statement of the tune leading to some beautiful latin playing from Simcock. The energy was then upped for ‘You Won’t be Around to See It’, making way for an incredible frenzied octave guitar solo that moved grinning bass player Steve Rodby to give Walker the international ‘we're not worthy’ sign.  The old favourite, ‘Wallenda’s Last Stand’ followed, on this particular evening taking on the strange twist of a slightly deranged fairground style ending.

Some gorgeous fast flowing drumming from Nussbaum on a sweet and homely ‘Clockmaker’ set our ears up nicely for a lovely and quite mystical extended solo introduction to ‘The Sliver of Other Lovers’ from Simcock. The track’s complex decentering rhythm created an unusual counter to its richly romantic melody and harmony. Walker’s chest-punching abrasive stutter start to the gritty funk groove of ‘Heute Loiter’ shifted the gear upwards once again, with Simcock’s dirty swirling Hammond soloing meeting Walker’s biting guitar grunt at the pass. Walker really went for high register angst bent notes on a solo of fearsome intensity. We were eased down gently, if somewhat disturbingly, by some detuned guitar and atonal piano. Curiously brilliant stuff.

Simcock risked going up in flames by setting a blistering tempo for a jaw-dropping ‘Barber Blues’, gaining playfully knowing smiles from Nussbaum and Rodby. Nussbaum met the challenge with bring-it-on gusto, Rodby also stepping up to the mark and delivering a phenomenally articulate and high paced solo. Walker matched this with a crisp, clear and forceful reply, leaving Simcock to play out the tune at a break-neck speed, bringing to an end a brilliant concert and a magical evening. All of this came with the extra treat of some fantastically funny inter-song banter from Walker (with a little help from Nussbaum) that wouldn't have disgraced a respectable comedy club. Impossibly brilliant and magical even.

The band’s new album and details of the tour are available from The Impossible Gentlemen website at