Most progressive metal adherents are probably familiar with Damian Wilson for his work with Threshold and his appearance on the Star One releases, in addition to fronting the acoustic Iron Maiden tribute act Maiden United. However, Wilson is also maintains a solo project which is significantly far removed from the metal world.
Tonight's show is an acoustic 'evening with' performance, meaning no support acts. Upon entering the venue, Damian Wilson is tuning his acoustic guitar and making polite conversation with the familiar faces. The 12 Bar Club is an extremely intimate venue that would struggle to accommodate fifty people and feels like a dubious choice given Wilson's strong support in Threshold. Visitors from as far afield as the Netherlands and Germany have journeyed to the capital to see this captivating frontman.
Opening with 'When I Leave this Land' and backed by a keyboardist Andrew Holdsworth and cello player Tony Woollard, Wilson launches into an emotive rendition of this track that gets the audience members singing along keenly. Following this song, Wilson explains that the show is going to be a very informal affair with plenty of conversation and story-telling as if the audience are within his own living room. With no pre-planned setlist or curfew, Wilson feels the night should go on as long as he feels. As the night unravels, there is indeed plenty of banter between the crowd and Wilson.
The setlist is a particularly lengthy one, with no less than twenty four favourites from throughout Wilson's career and various projects, although the cast bulk of them are from his singer-songwriter material. Nonetheless, Headspace's 'Soldier' receives an acoustic reworking, alongside the Maiden United cover of 'The Evil that Men Do', with Wilson encouraging the audience to singing along with exceedingly successful results. The energetic and almost angry nature of this song is turned into a sensual number with Wilson's powerful voice perfectly suited for it. The acoustic Wilson-penned Threshold track 'Mansion' is a fine addition to the set and, to the disappointment of some, the only Threshold song on offer tonight. Two non-Wilson covers are tossed into the rich mix: Depeche Mode's 'Somebody' and Brinsley Schwarz's '(What's so Funny 'bout) Peace, Love and Understanding'.
There is a multitude of audience engagement. One particular episode sees Wilson mistaking a fan's Decrepit Birth T-shirt for an Iced Earth one and telling the punter to buy one of his T-shirts and wear it instead. Surprisingly, the fan in question immediately leaves only to return sporting a new Damian Wilson shirt! In some ways, he is later compensated with Wilson telling the fan to get a beer from the bar for himself and tell the staff that Wilson would pay for it.
For some tracks, Wilson is joined by his brother (who has to sit on the edge of the tiny stage) who provides velveteen backing vocals where necessary. The clarity of the sound is marvellous for such an improper tiny music venue. Some of the songs that solicit the most envious reactions include 'She's Like a Fable', 'Adam's Son', 'Naked', 'Subway' and the beloved 'Homegrown'. A new song is also aired to the crowd and the response is nothing short of positive. Although acoustic, it is clear to hear the folk, rock, pop and progressive influences that make up the circulatory system of the music.
A broken fingernail persistently threatens to abridge the set from nearly the beginning of the performance. Towards the end, Wilson can only strike his guitar strings with a plectrum, which means the pool of material to choose from shrinks. Apparently, the nail injury is so disruptive, it signals the eventual end of the show after well over two hours of material. The curtain call song is 'Mingulay Boat Song' where Wilson is joined by his other brother Justin Wilson for a beautiful sing along with the audience. The audience response is filling and testament that Wilson should indeed be more popular with his unique voice, honest lyrics and sweet melodies that fail to steer into the saccharine. Additionally, he is one of the most entertaining live performers with this intimate and informal show being an idea that more musicians should be using. This is definitely a night to remember.