Being a support act on a major national tour is like a GCSE exam in ‘first impressions’ – you’ve got to be good and not scrimp on your revision if you want pass with flying colours.
The penalty for doing it wrong is an embarrassing even humiliating walk of shame stage right. Friday night saw Ben McKelvey supporting The Overtones at Sheffield City Hall. The venue was noisy and when two lads wearing simple black jeans and tee shirts stood front and centre, I wondered if they would manage to distract the largely older female clientele from their primary aim – ie to be mesmerised by a big production show and swoon over the glittering Overtones.
It’s safe to say that by the quip about crisps-in-the-dressing room before song three, Ben had dispelled my worries and had the audience won over. The applause was louder after every track and so were the laughs at the genuinely amusing anecdotes. I say: well played Ben, as that’s really no mean feat with an audience geared up for acappella jazz wizardry from a highly polished boy band. Afterwards Ben tried to tell me it was unrehearsed – but I’m not convinced! I think he has too much nouse to leave too much to chance. He mentioned all the necessary things – such as website, facebook, his NAME (easy to forget) and his CDs and so on, naturally and affectionately. Clearly he and ‘sidekick’ Mark had given some thought to how to make the performance memorable – and profitable – and the queue for signed CDs at the interval is testament to that skill.
Two alpha males, a guitar, cajon and some kind of sample-box synth showed that they have dimensions above a stand-and-sing staple. If nothing else they certainly have energy! Mark even admitted to me that it is an aim to destroy that cajon by drumming it to death with his bare hands.
So, by the sounds of the Yorkshire folk’s reaction; the chilled and reiterative ‘Sunday’ indeed sums up their experience of lazy weekend days, while the anthemic ‘Stay Young’ also resonates with their desire to seize life and enjoy it. Hence why we’re all here I guess. So all in all an excellently executed warm up act that managed to not slip into obscurity ignored by a preoccupied group of Overtonians but actually captured our imagination and won us over to your energetic form of acoustic banterous bardship.
Ben McKelvey is on tour with The Overtones until 22 Dec with dates across the UK. For tickets and information visit Ben’s website bmckmusic.co.uk