Dan Ashplant Album Launch with Elliot Albert Orchard and Mimi Helyar – St James Cafe – 06/08/21

Dan Ashplant
Dan Ashplant

A couple of years ago a single appeared from young singer songwriter Dan Ashplant but, after that, he seemed to go very quiet.

Now though, in August 2021, a debut album, No Nonsense, has been released and to mark the launch Dan staged a show in the Cafe at St James alongside fellow singer-songwriters Mimi Helyar and Elliot Albert Orchard.

Mimi Helyar
Mimi Helyar

Mimi Helyar started the night with a set of her original songs, the first time I think I’ve seen her do a full set of originals, and across half an hour she delivered some of the most sedate teen angst I’ve ever heard, but it really worked to show her voice and capture her feeling.

Her performance was more confident than I’ve seen from her before but, due to the subject of the music, came with a vulnerability that made it work very well.

New song Ghost Town sounded particularly good, really showing how her songwriting has developed over the last few years, while Under The Red Lights had a fine groove, even being played solo, and Lovesick made for a very nice end to the set which established the tone for the night (and the weekend) in the Cafe very well.

Elliot Albert Orchard
Elliot Albert Orchard

Elliot Albert Orchard was up next, joined once again by Callum Moores on electric guitar, and from the off he seemed more relaxed on stage than ever (and he was already usually very confident) while playing seated which seemed to suit this version of his performances very well.

Throughout the set it was clear Elliot has found a sweet spot for his voice and music, with his rich and full voice filling the room balanced by delicate music that found power when needed, backed up by some excellent controlled electric guitar sounds that acted, for the most part, as a bed on which the acoustic guitar and vocals lay.

While the set as whole had a melancholy edge (‘this song’s about a Chinese cemetery’ being a particularly notable song introduction) it was in no way a miserable experience to listen to being highlighted an excellent evocation of a down at heel late night version of Brighton, City On A Saturday, helping this be possibly the best performance I’ve seen from Elliot Albert Orchard (in this mode) yet.

Dan Ashplant
Dan Ashplant

With the Cafe nice and busy, primarily it seemed with family, family friends and well wishers, Dan Ashplant took to the stage alone with just a (rather nice looking) Telecaster.

From there he proceeded to deliver more than an hour and a quarter of music, mostly his own songs but with a few choice covers, largely playing guitar and singing over a self recorded backing track.

There’s no denying Dan’s skill, particularly on the guitar, which he played with a tightness I’ve rarely seen live throughout, and to get up on stage alone in this way is immensely brave whatever the situation.

Musically what we got was a selection of some of the most middle of the road pop rock I’ve ever heard from an artist in Guernsey but throughout there were plenty of catchy moments even if it wasn’t breaking any new ground and, as he warmed up it was clear Dan has an energy and even presence to his playing, it just felt somewhat stifled here by playing along to a backing track and being so tightly rehearsed and structured.

Dan Ashplant
Dan Ashplant

Mid way through the set Dan switched to acoustic guitar for a trio of fully live songs that, while equally well played, instantly felt more natural and genuine.

As he switched back to electric a cover of ELO’s Mr Blue Sky was a brave choice, but he did it well, while the set ended on a real crowd pleaser (though not a song familiar to me), Little Ray Of Sunshine that closed the night on a celebratory moment.

Ultimately Dan showed some great guitar playing and good singing but I was left wishing we could see the same songs played by a full live band as, with their obvious 70s and 80s rock influences, there was a lot to like about the music on offer tonight and there remains a lot to be said for the simple combination of a Fender Telecaster and a Marshall amplifier.

You can see more of my photos from the show on my Facebook page by clicking here

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