I was taken by surprise of what a trip down memory lane the destination would be. I seldom go anywhere in the city of my birth, Leeds, nowadays. The venue for the concert – Seven Arts in Chapel Allerton is nearly next door to the first Primary School I attended over 55 years ago – Chapel Allerton Primary School. Memories flooded back such as making a clockwork bear walk through puddles in the playground: not the best thing for a primitive mechanical device to do. Also I spent a couple of undergraduate summers working at a stores depot for Leeds City Council just around the corner from here. However nostalgia apart I made my way to the venue quietly thrilled that one of the best Americana acts of 2016/17 were playing on my proverbial patch.
This was Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters first ever UK tour and Seven Arts, in Leeds, was privileged to be their second stop. With a four piece band to back her Platt took to the stage in this small but packed venue and launched into “Birthday Song”. This was the first of several songs off her latest critically claimed eponymous titled album. The album has gained traction in Americana circles in the US but it is clear, as she ran through songs off this and the preceding two albums, that she’s been producing exquisite Country Americana for some years now.
The UK seems to be an adventure and Facebook posts recording the delights of discovering steel rather than plastic teaspoons in her hotel room and the possible pleasure of eating fish and chips and finding a real British pub suggests that this adventure may spawn a song or two but it is certain that Platt will garner some new fans in the Old World.
Whilst her vocals and observational lyrics are the focus throughout then she is blessed by a band that sympathetically and expertly fit around her. As Platt strutted her stuff up front then the band shared ‘off camera’ grins and nods as they took their solos. This is a bunch of pals on tour with an easy dynamic.
Matt Smith switched regularly between electric guitar and pedal steel. To the delight of the audience this came to the fore during “Texas ‘81” where its tones were as much a siren as her beautiful voice. Evan Martin underpins the sound with keys/organ throughout especially on “Diamond In The Rough”. Platt played 22 songs over two sets and highlights were frequent and many but “What We’ve Got’ reached a certain intensity that lit up the crowd and “Me Oh My” was truly rousing.
The audience enjoyed the vistas of Texas, Carolina, Indiana and places a long way west of Yorkshire but they also enjoyed the banter about her anxiety of eyebrows on a video shoot or the preponderance of deformed villains in Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracey movie!
For a couple of numbers the band left the stage whilst she sang a couple of songs alone with an acoustic guitar – “Learning How To Love Him’ and “Angeline”. This stripped down sound was a joy along with the acoustic final number “The Road’ with Rick Cooper (bass) and Josh Milligan (drums) providing harmonies on the chorus. She has a way of expressing the emotions and troubles of every day folk and to have her close her eyes and tell you with her head tilted to one side and the lights dimmed was like receiving a private audience with a sage.