Songwriters’ Rounds contain three key ingredients which, when mixed together well, ensure their success. The Liverpool leg of The Round Up tour had great songs, stories and camaraderie in spades. Two Ways Home were joined by Katy Hurt, Demi Marriner, and Robert Vincent for a night that delivered plenty of laughs, delectable lyrics, and a warm atmosphere that made Phase One feel like a home from home.
The venue had undergone a wholesale change since my last visit pre-pandemic. Now, walking through the courtyard to enter, I was greeted by a fully-refurbished interior that made for a more intimate space. Wooden tables and chairs, compact and cosy in their layout, were dotted between bar and stage, with a couple of sofas in front of a jukebox in the far corner. It was an interior that lent itself to the informal, stripped back nature of the Round. The artists appearing mingled amongst the crowd pre-show before taking their places on a cramped stage. Guitars were squeezed this way and that but there was no complaining, no jostling; only jollity and revelry between them throughout.
Not even an early technical hitch with Robert Vincent’s guitar, after Katy Hurt’s impressive opener with ‘The Kiss’, was going to affect proceedings. For whatever was thrown at them was met with an easy-going response. This made the evening ebb and flow with much greater emotion and freedom. Vincent’s funny interludes on stage contrasted well with the serious depth of his songwriting. One after another, his songs punched through the Saturday night air, urged on by strong vocals heavy with the wisdom of lived experience. Each time, Demi Marriner rose to meet him. Her self-titled “waffle” before each song was entertaining but was matched with a quality of lyricism that meant no one could take her for a fool. Whether the gorgeously poignant ‘Don’t You Worry’ or the heartbreakingly inspiring ‘Little Boy’, she delivered a beautifully chosen set of songs from an upcoming debut album now highly anticipated after this performance.
It was not just Demi who received whispers of approval amongst the audience. Newcomers to Katy Hurt’s catalogue were also sharing looks of an impressive nature. None more so than after ‘Revved Up’. Hers is a powerhouse of a vocal on this track, and she seemed to turn it up a further notch here to leave two ladies in particular suitably awestruck at the song’s end. ‘Falling Apart’ may not have pulled at the heartstrings quite as much as it could have done, thanks to some unintended laughter near its beginning. But it did suitably mark the night as one in which emotionally-wrenching lyrics balanced with humorous conversation to make it a highly enjoyable and ultimately uplifting evening.
Two Ways Home seem to have found the secret to compering nights like this. Their light touch made for a fluid gig wherein the relationships between the artists were allowed to grow and flourish naturally onstage. The result was a feeling of not just being invited in to a live session between friends but a homely environment that filtered through to post-show chatter in which any barrier between audience and acts simply disappeared. In that respect, the title of the song they opened with, ‘Closest Stranger’, took on a deeper meaning by the end of the night. If this is the kind of show that exemplifies The Round Up then it’s worth catching in a town or city near you.
The Round Up is on tour throughout April. For upcoming dates and locations, click here.
Originally written for and published on Belles & Gals on April 13th 2023.
Featured Image (C) Two Ways Home