The visit of this uniquely celt-vaudevillie artist means for the first time in all my visits to Brudenell the place is filled with rows of seats……and each and every one has an expectant bottom perched upon it. It must be the best part of a decade since Mr Wilson, aka Duke Special caused quite a stir with his first proper album ‘Songs of the Deep Forest’, generating a stack of TV performances for the dreadlocked Ulsterman as he built a cult following of loyal converts over the following handful of albums. Critical acclaim arrived in abundance although that never quite translated into units shifted.
Nevertheless, tonight he is back flying solo at the Brude, supporting long player number 7 ‘Look Out Machines!’ and the stage set gives the venue a distinctly front parlour feel, like something out of ‘Pennies From Heaven’…..very cosy. Indeed tonight is the personification of gentility, only Duke Special could pen a song about his home town of Belfast which sounded like a show tune, or cover a song about a cross dresser (the Magnetic Fields’ ‘Andrew in Drag’) making you think of Gorgeous Georgina from Blackadder Goes Forth.
Despite the passing of time, tonight’s set includes many ‘Songs from the Deep Forest’ staples including the classic quartet of ‘Wake up Scarlett’, ‘Last Night I Nearly Died (But I Woke Up Just In Time)’, ‘Freewheel’ and ‘Salvation Tambourine’, much to the delight of the deferential crowd. Despite this, it’s the quirky choice of covers that almost upstages his fine original material. We get an Ivor Cutler medley complete with harmonium, Kurt Weill’s ‘Alabama Song’, made famous by The Doors, and the Big Star classic ‘Thirteen’.
Tonight’s supporting act Laura Kidd, known as ‘She Makes War’ also makes another appearance, adding a welcome bit of variety to proceedings, not that anyone was complaining, before ‘Our Love Goes Deeper Than This’ brings things to an encore free conclusion, reinforced during the song’s drawn-out coda.
Duke Special Official