Amsterdam [Ian Prowse] – Live Review – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
By Victoria Holdsworth, April 2022
“Hey, does this train stop, does this train stop on Merseyside? asks Ian Prowse and his talented bunch of troubadors, Amsterdam, as they arrive at their latest stop on their UK tour. The Brudenell is comfortably full in the main room to greet them with love and applause, knowing they are in for a good night. The band waste no time before kicking off with a track from Ian’s new album No Trial, and the anthemic ‘Taking On The World’, before slowing things down a little with the beautifully crafted ‘Ballad of North John Street’.
The atmosphere is brimming with prickly excitement, as it always is when Ian and band travel over to this side of the Pennines. Tonight, it’s a double header of music, as we get to hear more of the tracks performed live on the new album, One Hand On The Starry Plough.
Lockdown hit the music scene in ways that no one could ever have imagined, but Mr Prowse was one man who kept us going through it all. Here is one of the first people who offered free online gigs and music sessions to fans and music lovers alike the world over, and looking around the crowd there are countless shirts emblazoned with the slogan: ‘Prowsey Got Me Through Lockdown’.
Ian has a few words to welcome his masses, and explains that tonight will be a mixture of old and new, some Pele tracks and solo works. He goes way back to the very start for ‘Fireworks’, released in 1991, and instantly recognisable to all in the room. The heat has now risen and the roof is raised as everyone sings and dances along.
The next song up was written about a young man whom Ian had come into contact with after our freedom was restored socially, and he was so taken with this little lad’s resilience in the face of some adversities he was facing, decided that he deserved his own song. It is received with plenty of foot tapping and swaying and is catchy as hell.
One of the most emotionally charged songs sees the walls vibrate and glasses rattle, as the band crack into ‘My Name Is Dessie Warren’, taken from Ian Prowse‘s 2nd solo album Companeros. Written about the British construction worker, trade union activist and, with Ricky Tomlinson, one of the Shrewsbury Two imprisoned for “conspiracy to intimidate” whilst picketing in 1972. The lyrics are beautifully crafted, but carry a weight that hits you like a brick in a velvet sock. Prowse sings with such passion and empathy, that you cannot help but be left with a lump in your throat.
Amidst the set tonight are some stunning, contrasting, delicate changes, veering from one extreme to the next. There’s a magical quality that enables you to lift off to another world, and with the musicians Ian has with him on stage, their collective and individual talents are otherworldly at times, as they lean into the remarkable ‘Policemen’ from The Story of Ian Prowse.
As ever there is some storytelling to be done. Ian has you gripped with his delivery and narratives, filled with humour, usually at his own expense, as he tells a tale of an ill fated tour of Ireland with a rouge and a drinker, who went on to eventually sort out his life and play with many great bands – but hilariously not before almost destroying Prowse in the process.
One stand out song tonight, and a personal favourite is ‘Name and Number’, with its Celtic undertone that slowly builds to an explosive crescendo. Combined with some amazing guitar work from Johnny Barlow and violinist Laura McKinlay – a demon on the strings – this is a real crowd pleaser and an absolute force of nature.
There is a song dedicated to his old friend, the late, great Janice Long, who sadly passed away in December of 2021. She championed the song ‘Home’ on her show for 20 consecutive weeks, and Ian was also invited to play it at her funeral. The lyrics and music blend together exceptionally, and it has a wonderful rhythmic lullaby feel to it. The raw emotions add to a stunning performance.
Because there is not the usual brass section travelling with Prowse on this tour, Ian asks his audience to step in for the Latin infused ‘I Did It For Love’, and they respond with gusto. You can feel the force of the crowd lifting louder and louder above each note, which seems to encourage the band to play even harder, beaming faces on all of them.
No encores as usual, as the Pele anthem ‘Fair Blows the Wind for France’, with its uplifting melodies and jaunty swagger, gets under your skin. As does the politically charged ‘Raid the Palace’, leading into a well executed cover of ‘London Calling’, which brings the house down.
Ending with the question that started this review, ‘Does this Train Stop On Merseyside’, and Ian invites everyone to the December gig in Liverpool, and we are all on the guezzi!
This song, a favourite of John Peel, mixes intricate layers of music composition over passionately researched history, showing a level of song writing ability above and beyond most of Ian’s contemporaries.
Tonight was uplifting and emotional. Amsterdam have the knack of taking you on an emotional musical detour that can wake the dead with their outstanding musicianship.