LIVE REVIEW: Duke Special, The Wardrobe (Leeds), 20.05.2012

Belfast’s Peter Wilson, or Duke Special as his critically acclaimed musical alter ego is known, has pulled in the punters at Leeds’ The Wardrobe. With an orderly queue forming at 6pm, his loyal fanbase chit-chat among themselves as they await the concert that will allow them an insight into Wilson’s impending long-awaited studio album “Oh Pioneer”. With doors opening half an hour late, the patient punters filter in to the wonderfully retro basement and await Duke Special’s arrival on stage.

But before the man of the moment makes his presence known, Magic Numbers’ vocalist Michele Stodart slinks on stage and rather shyly introduces the audience to material from her forthcoming debut solo album. With each song arrives a growing confidence from the more emotionally charged vocalist. Equipped with just a guitar and rich vocal chords, Stodart captivates the packed house from the moment she launches into her sensational single “Foolish Love”. Having cast her spell effortlessly, Stodart is deservedly reward with a rush to the merch stand at the close of her set.

After a brief break in proceedings Wilson takes to the stage armed with a pint of Guinness and takes place behind his piano stage left and launches into a selection of numbers from his 2011 release “Under The Dark Cloth”. As Wilson enters into material from “Oh Pioneer”, he invites Mark Edwards and “Temperance Society” Chip Bailey (Hammond and Drums respectively) to join him on stage and wastes little time in working his way through well-received new material. However, it is his earlier, more familiar work, which really grasps the audience’s attention. Though clearly impressed by the new compositions, there is a hunger to sing along with the maestro.

An hour flies by before everyone’s eyes and Wilson calls time on his all to brief set. With the audience screaming for more, Wilson returns to stage and takes requests for fan favourites. Rioting through his back catalogue, Wilson relishes the response and really packs a punch with the romper stomper “Diggin’ An Early Grave”.

With both Wilson and his audience caught up in the moment, nearly 40 minutes flies by as Wilson takes his final bow. With both performer and public far more than satisfied, it is easy to understand just why the pianist from Belfast continues to delight critic and audience alike. A truly enjoyable and engaging evening.

Rating: 5/5
Reviewer & Photographer: Jeremy Williams

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1 Comment

  1. Nice review and agree wholeheartedly with the 5/5 rating – there couldn’t be a better example of what live music is all about, enthusiastic, creative artists on stage, Michele Stodard’s seductive opening set, Duke Special’s peerless voice and piano, Chip Bailey’s dynamic percussion and Mark Edwards mighty Hammond organ and an excited, appreciative audience – what more could you ask? It’s worth noting that Chip Bailey was standing in for drummer Phil Wilkinson so not as many of the exciting new ‘Oh Pioneer’ album songs as at the earlier gigs in Scotland. The much loved classic Duke songs were ‘new’ once – it won’t be long before the new material joins them!

    As a sidenote, Leeds just keeps on growing and growing as major source of superb artists and great live music venues


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