Al Lewis at the Louis 2

I don’t know if Louis 2 is the smallest venue in Bristol but it’s the dinkiest one I’ve ever visited, that Like a Hurricane solo by a former housemate at university, aside. Down some steep stairs, and behind the crowd, the singer is barely visible but the sound reverbates off the walls.

Folksy, winsome Lily McCauley sings “how did I know you’d catch me when I’d fall” and finishes up with Those Eyes and Fragile. A great introduction by a very recent addition to the West Country music scene, only picking up a guitar for the first time in 2010.

I have a friend who walked out of a Portishead gig at a Manchester pub a few years before they hit their heights of fame and that is how I expect the few people who walked out, before Al Lewis came on stage, will feel very soon.

He has been played on Radio 1, 2 and 6music, was Best Male Artist two years in a row at the BBC Radio Cymru Awards and on Friday played to a handful of people in a very intimate gig in a cellar while sounding like he should be on the main stage at the Colston Hall.

A guitar twang and the addition of the harmonica brought to mind Neil Young while the singing and the cello by Mary reminded of Damien Rice, especially the higher notes which bounced off the ceiling and filled the room.

Lewis is on tour for his latest album ‘Battles’, produced by Charlie Peacock of The Civil Wars fame, with long-time collaborator Sarah Howells, from Paper Aeroplanes, who plays the Louisiana next month.

He played us the version of Road Rage he sang with Cerys Matthews on stage while his own songs were accompanied by music designed to capture emotions that come by fleetingly and dash off in a hurry. An intimate gig was just right.

We were mesmerised by Battles and the first single off the album Treading Water. Fault Lines seemed faultless and the more up-tempo number which he wrote in New Orleans at a friend’s wedding got people shuffling away. It was a wonderful gig, the best one I’ve been to in a very long time.

While Mary packed up her cello and got ready to go to the train station, Al took time to play us his encore, Arsonist. Just him and his guitar in the middle of the room. Poignant, sweet and probably one of the last times we’ll ever be able to be so close to him at a performance.

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