The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh
Friday 9th November
Words: Richard Payne
For a man that once played to sell-out arenas all over the world, the surroundings of the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh’s East End could be said to be claustrophobic and an almighty comedown for ex-Seahorses frontman, Chris Helme.
Yet, free from the pressure of being a famous rock star, thrust into the limelight without having earned that status, Helme is a man comfortable in his own skin.
The familiar sounds of ‘Hello’ and ‘You Can Talk To Me’, songs that helped make him a household name at the height of the Seahorses fame are how he chose to start his set.
‘The Seahorses were around a long time ago and I dread to think how long it actually is, but weirdly, I’m remembered for doing that one album…’It’s like looking through a photo album when I play them these days.‘ he told the enthusiastic crowd and their response was to welcome them like long-lost relatives.
However, Helme wasn’t in Auld Reekie for a nostalgic look back at his time on top of the Indie world and sharing a stage with John Squire, he was in town plugging his new album ‘The Rookery’, (LTW review) a fantastic, mellow LP filled with beautiful indie/folk tunes.
This is Helme stripped bare and his heartfelt, soulful tunes take on new meaning when performed without the backing of a band. Those vulnerable melodies highlight Helme’s growth as a songwriter and showcase his undoubted talent for captivating his audience.
Right from the start of his set it was clear he had the heart of those standing before him. Yet, before he struck the first chord of the first song he handled the intrusive presence of a front row heckler as only a seasoned professional could and with the crowd on his side he set about indulging in his first love – the music. New tracks such as ‘Blindeye’, ‘Darkest Days’ And ‘Summer Girl’ sound as though you’ve always known them and they were somehow a reflection of your own thoughts and feelings.
Meanwhile, ‘Set In Stone’, dedicated to his wife standing just off stage, highlighted the raw emotion of Helme’s writing and the uncertainty of a man who doesn’t believe himself to be worthy of the love from those around him.
The warmth in the venue tonight however would have him feeling ten foot tall, a colossal wave of adoration that would appear entirely reciprocated by the Yorkshire artist.
The encore would see Helme once more return to his past and the crowd-pleasing hits from his Seahorses days, yet, it’s unlikely that ‘Blinded By The Sun’ or ‘Love Is The Law’ have ever sounded as soulful and uplifting as they have done this evening.
For a man said to have been plucked from obscurity by Squire after a busking session in York, Helme’s time in the spotlight is far from over and it won’t be long before he is back playing packed arenas having done the hard work and earned the right to be back there.