Patrick Duff has always been one of my favourite songwriters, and a great influence to my own creative mind. Unfortunately, I missed every chance to see Strangelove live because I didn’t live in the UK until 2014, but despite that, my love for their and Patrick’s work has always stayed strong. That’s why, when I saw Patrick had announced a show with a band in Bristol, I knew I had to take this opportunity to finally see this intriguing and truly fascinating artist.
I’ve always thought of Strangelove as one of the best 90s Britpop bands, even though they’ve never sounded quite like Britpop to me. These talented guys stood out to me, and I still can’t figure out if it was because of the lyrics, the expressive vocal performance, great guitar arrangements, or the way they were able to complement each other. Patrick always played a big role in how their songs made me feel about myself back then. In fact, I could relate to them! Did he speak to everyone in the same way? I will never know, but he definitely spoke to me, and he still continues to do so.
I didn’t know what to expect from the Bristol show, but I was still truly excited. The show was divided in two sets: the first set was a duo with Woody Taylor and included readings from his upcoming book, and the second set was with a band and focused on the new album Leaving My Father’s House. The Bristol Folk House hall was packed. I was lucky to get a front row seat, a brilliant spot for taking pictures. At 8:20, Patrick appeared on stage with Woody, a 17-year-old Bristol guitarist who was later introduced to the audience. I feel sorry now that I didn’t take notes during the show (I was more focused on the experience and taking pictures), because I probably won’t remember every song they played… but I’m pretty sure “Thought Birds” opened the show. Patrick played and sang with such ease and the ethereal feel of the song really came through to the audience. I believe “Land Of The Midnight Sun”, from the album Leaving My Father’s House, was played during the first set; it’s my favourite song from the album so I was quite happy to hear it. We also got to hear “Song To America” and see Patrick on keyboards for a change. He shared the story behind the song too – he wrote it after waking up from a strange dream about a girl who spoke the lyrics to him. It was a personal experience he decided to share with us, and I truly appreciate how open and honest he was. Patrick made the first set even more personal by reading us a short story from his upcoming book. I don’t know whether it will be a biography or a collection of short stories based on his life experiences, but it sounds promising either way. He chose to read a part about his grandmother, and I felt Patrick shared more than just words when he read it. The last song of the set was inspired by Thom Yorke and he shared the story behind it as well.
After a short break, Patrick returned to the stage, this time with the band. The first song they played was “Yesterday’s Man”, which was the first track I played on repeat when I bought the album. The song is utterly catchy with a great melody and a brilliant refrain, I remember I would sing along to it and didn’t care if someone heard me. The band was well rehearsed and I enjoyed their fantastic performance from the start. Patrick offered explanations for some songs, including the song about Brian Jones. Even after that, though, it leaves me guessing what the song is really about… He might have been inspired by the Rolling Stones guitarist, or his own experiences. I can’t help but find a bit of Patrick in all of his songs and I truly believe he’s not yesterday’s man. I was wondering about “Little Rose” though, and he revealed the inspiration for that song as well. He made a funny remark that no show is complete without a song about witchcraft, and when I heard him say that, I knew right away that they would play the mesmerising “Kate’s Magic Spell”, a hidden gem of the album. Another character appears on the album: Maria. I was waiting patiently for that song, the song about a man who leaves his family for young Maria… However, the show was far from gloomy, regardless of some songs’ lyrics being so; there were uplifting moments with the cheerful sounding “Saint Marie”, “For All I Know” and “Black Monday”. Leaving My Father’s House is a well thought-out release which offers more than just a sonic experience; it feels like a collection of short stories at the same time. I remember hearing “Evergreen”, “Mother Nature’s Refugee”, “Married With Kids” and “In My Junkie Clothes” during the sets, but it’s really impossible for me to put the songs in the right order… that’s what happens when you don’t take notes.
Patrick smiled from time to time, made jokes and talked with the audience, which made the whole experience even more intimate. We formed a close relationship with the band in such a short time and we all felt that we were part of the show. I couldn’t wish for anything better. Then, to my great surprise, they played Strangelove’s “Freak”! It sounded amazing! It seemed the band and the audience both loved it all the same. Patrick saved the last surprise for the encore, and it was another Strangelove’s classic “Sway”, which he played together with Woody again. It left the audience breathless and we paid them back with massive applause!
Patrick Duff is one of the rare artists who can pull off an acoustic show so well. That speaks volumes about his great talent, both as an exceptional vocalist and utterly gifted musician. On this occasion, he was accompanied by Woody on electric guitar and by the band for the second set, and we also got to see him playing acoustic guitar, keyboards and electric guitar. The set with the band was both extraordinary and impressive, and I really hope to see him perform with them again in the future.