Michael Paynter @ The Toff in Town (with Imogen Brough) – 13 Feb ’14

As the melodic tinkering of the keyboard silenced the soon to be observant crowd, everyone waited on bated breath and heard the angelic sounds of Imogen Brough. Familiar to some, new to others but the influences gleamed through from the get go on a perfectly selected opening of The Celtic Song. The accolades that followed suggested that this was received with nothing but delight and surprise.

While covers featured notably, each was delivered with a unique take and perspective for more than just a replica of the originals. The most stirring was undoubtedly a powerful version of London Grammar’s Strong, once misattributed as Imogen’s own single. The simple twists of a little more momentum and dynamic in the arrangement were just stunning.

Heart, the new single only just released in time for the tour was performed in its rawer acoustic arrangement, contrasting the more radio friendly produced version but with its captivating lyrical melody and soaring vocals there was an immediate warmth and intrigue in the arrangement and song writing to want to listen to this again.

Continuing on the trend of minimalist arrangements, the smaller venue with its compacted sold out crowd afforded the opportunity to hear new and old material from Michael Paynter in stripped back arrangements, certainly a sweeping contrast from the most recent release of Weary Stars.

The predominantly acoustic guitar arrangements left nowhere to hide, but there was no reason to be concerned with the impeccable and heartfelt delivery of Another You to open.

Tonight, and the tour, was an opportunity to hear these songs like they hadn’t been played before and Michael delivered as promised. Sure, it was an experiment but it paid off in immaculate delivery and in some instances, raised the bar in comparison to the recorded versions.

Taking a step back in time, the pace picked up a little with a more upbeat version of Closer and its catchy chorus but the ease and comfort of performance despite only being the second night of the tour was evident.

Travelling back to the acoustic album, Money On Your Tongue provided a glimpse into career milestones and turning points, dabbling in production and delivering a little more angst in the album’s title track.

For a short while, it was time to dabble on the keys for a truly captivating version of Ordinary and a cover of Disclosure’s Latch while reminiscing on his recent engagement.

A return to the guitar came with a moment of thanks and gratitude to the crowd, with profound sincerity and humility for the support received.

But the moment of the night had to go to the amazing performance of Icehouse’s Man of Colours. This was breathtaking the first time I heard it covered (while on stage with Icehouse last year) and I was absolutely floored again. Having initially been invited by Iva Davies to perform the song, there’s no doubt that the baton for this one has been well and truly passed on to be able to own such an enthralling performance.

Pre-prep for the encore led to an overly warm and enthusiastic welcome back to the stage, fun times ensued with a cover of My Babe and jovial crowd banter before a more serious ending on Are You Alive. Being able to experience live music in these smaller venues makes you truly appreciate the talent and musicianship of the artists on stage, and this was no exception.

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