It’s 3pm on a warm spring Bank Holiday Sunday afternoon and Tooting’s newest café-come-music venue The Sound Lounge is packed to all four corners with middle-aged hipsters eager to see Geraint Watkins and the Mosquitoes play their first show in 18 months.
The show’s organiser, host and support act Niall Kelly kicks off the afternoon with an uplifting fusion of blues-folk-country packed with foot-stomping tracks from his second studio album Not Sleeping as well as new material that he hopes to release in the next year. The latest studio offering features legendary pedal steel player BJ Cole on three tracks, and was aptly titled during the period following the birth of Kelly’s first child, a period to which I can resonate with having started this review at 3am in the morning whilst feeding my own little one!
Singer-songwriter Kelly is supported by Dan on drums, James on guitar, Jimmy on bass and his wife Caitlin on violin. He met his wife some years ago whilst working the Soho Blues circuit, but today it’s a family affair in his own neighbourhood, with children in tow to watch as they warm up the 250-sold-out crowd with tracks including Love Light and When Do I Check In?
With a sound that takes influence from Van Morrison, the Derry-native’s eight-track set included new tune Stranger In Love, before concluding with stand-out track Lady Dancer from his first studio album Hand in Fire, which he boasts is not available to buy today as he sold them all…all four of them!
The trendy crowd, enjoying an afternoon tipple, have shunned beards in favour of chunky black-rimmed glasses and trilbies. Kelly has left them fully enthused as he hands the batten over to Geraint Watkins and the Mosquitoes for the main show.
Watkins has spent much of his 40-year career supporting others with his nimble-fingered talents on piano, keyboard and accordion, and he has supported not just anyone I must add, notching up performances with Van Morrison, Paul McCartney, Nick Lowe, Bill Wyman, and Mark Knopfler to name but a few. One of his recent ventures saw him feature as accordionist on Status Quo’s 2014 album Acoustic (Stripped Bare), and he is regularly championed by BBC Music. He can sing too, and has recorded a number of solo albums in his accomplished career, including the critically acclaimed In A Bad Mood in 2008, which earned him a guest appearance on Later… With Jools Holland.
Today he too is performing on his patch, hailing from South Wales but a south-west Londoner for decades. He is joined on the quirky venue’s generous stage by The Mosquitoes; whom include Martin Winning on sax and Tucker Nelson on drums. Also joining the party is special guest Little George Sueref, a talented blues and soul singer, guitarist and harmonica musician tasked with two vocal leads per half of the show.
Watkins sits throughout on keyboard and treats punters to three full hours of rock ‘n’ roll mixed with blues and peppered with the Welshman’s humour between tracks. Playing tunes from In A Bad Mood as well as a number of jolly covers including Dancing Queen and an inspired amalgamation of The Sound of Music’s My Favourite Things and the James Bond Theme. A charismatic Winning is a joy on sax, whilst guest Little George delights with his vocal strength.
After a short interval half way through the session allowing all to get a much-needed refreshment, the afternoon turns to evening and Watkins returns to the stage alone, showcasing his voice with a lovely rendition of Only A Rose, taken from 2004 album Dial W For Watkins and since re-recorded with Nick Lowe. Afterwards, The Mosquitoes and Little George return to stage, completing the set with upbeat tunes including the late Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Good, which has the sell-out audience on their feet and dancing.
After more than four hours of live music, it’s now almost 7.30pm and the show sadly comes to a close. No-one wants to go home, and I can understand why. Spirits are high thanks to a fine afternoon of live music.
Niall Kelly plays the Stroud Fringe Festival in August, whilst Geraint Watkins plays at Folk A Rock in Malmö in May and the Eel Pie Club in Twickenham in September.
Live review and photos by Lauren Patel