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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Energy in the song as Toby Jepson wraps up solo acoustic tour at Diamond Rock Club

ENERGY, dynamism and banter were the order of the day as songwriter, producer and former Little Angels frontman Toby Jepson delivered a consummate performance bristling with intensity despite only being equipped with a microphone and a guitar - and that was all it needed to enthrall the audience in Ahoghill.

Jepson may have shared stages with likes of Bon Jovi and Van Halen, but in the intimacy of a smaller venue in the depths of January (11/01/14) the character and talent of the man shines through.

Opening up proceedings was Stefan Murray, who warmed up the audience with a mixture of covers and his own material, of which Silver and Gold was notable. Despite a few equipment hiccoughs Murray showed potential that could be developed by a more judicious choice of covers and a greater use of his own material.

Sometimes volume can make up for a lot of things, but there are other times the volume is not so much the reading on the decibel meter, but the energy, thoughtfulness of the performer.

With a voice to fill an auditorium, and material that translates as well acoustically as it ever did with a full band, Toby Jepson brought to the Diamond Rock Club a scale of performance that can show lesser mortals just how to deliver 'songs'.

Earlier when we caught up with the genial rocker he spoke about how important the actual song is to him, whether he is performing, lyric writing, producing or just being on stage. And the evidence of that personal commitment to the song was more than evident.

This was the last date in Jepson's solo acoustic tour backing his album Raising My Own Hell and was a mixture of songs and answering some frankly weird questions.and stunning performances of classic Little Angels tracks and solo material.

Indeed, many of the tracks aired live had as much power delivered acoustically as they do on record with a full band.

Little Angels tracks The Way That I Live and Back Door Man grew acoustically while Shadow Boxing and the title track of the recent release raised the bar through the passion and wit with which they were delivered.

But this was also an opportunity for the audience to hear a little more about the man behind the songs. Prior to the gig attendees had the chance to pen a few questions for Jepson, which were put to the man by 'Phil'.

Those there heard how Jepson's superhero of choice was The Hulk, how Jon Bon Jovi had always been a gentleman to Little Angels, the awe a performer feels in front of 110,000 people, why Katie Meluah is a strong person, how record labels 'own' artists - and for comic devotees why Marvel is better than DC.

Following a Facebook comment about the 'tragedy' of reality TV shows, Jepson gave an impassioned answer about the talentless numpties who fulfil Warhol's prediction about everybody having their 15 minutes of fame. As Jepson explained to universal acclaim they neither deserve those minutes nor deserve to crowd out TV screens with their useless lives.

Entertaining as the Q and A session was, Jepson's command of the material was outstanding; controlled guitar power and devilishly delightful singing.

Drawing from Raising My Own Hell and Guitar, Bass and Drums solo releases, as well as Little Angels songs, Jepson showed that there is a diversity in his songwriting that reflects personal feelings and personal issues of interest.

Four Letter Word - a song originally penned for Meluah - came across as a passionate poem to the sense of loss and sense of betrayal that comes only when real emotions are caught up in a maelstrom, while Small Talk was huge on the stage.

Crowd pleasers from the Little Angels back catalogue such as Young Gods and Too Much Too Young were greeted like old buddies and worn on stage by Jepson like a pair of favourite, comfortable old jeans - truly excellent, and truly well suited to the venue.

At 46 Jepson self-disparagingly refers to himself as a "grumpy old man" but what his performance at the Diamond Rock Club proved is that he has matured as a person and matured as a multi-talented muso.

And so long as he can hold a guitar, pen a song or sit behind a production desk then rest assured his talent will continue to grow and mature.

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