THE PAUL DUNTON ORCHESTRA
TRINITY THEATRE, TUNBRIDGE WELLS
15th February 2013
For those unfamiliar with Paul Dunton and his flexible band of musicians, they are perhaps best described as part emotive pop-folk, part classical parlour ensemble. Clad in a refined concert black, the Orchestra this evening consists of Paul on the piano, plus guitar, bass, flute and a substantial string section. Paul is a soft-spoken frontman, frequently stepping out of the spotlight and allowing the different members of his ensemble to shine – and shine the Paul Dunton Orchestra does.
The Orchestra began their performance with two instrumental tracks, Recurring Dream and Escapism. There are shades of Einaudi to Paul’s swirling piano lines, with the flautist and string section trading the melody lines between them. The instrumentals felt very much like soundtrack pieces – I was put in mind of Yasunori Mitsuda’s work on Squaresoft’s video games. The Paul Dunton Orchestra really comes to life, however, with the inclusion of their characteristic vocal lines. Guest singer Poppy Alice (drafted in at the last minute) brought a soultinged edge to Don’t Forget, and she, Paul and guitarist Steve McCormack use vocal harmony to great effect – most noticeably on new song Wasting Time, which could easily be a single release. The combination of Paul’s narrativestyle vocal and the string arrangement is very reminiscent of Elbow’s Abbey Road sessions. McCormack’s guitar playing is also excellent in this track, and showcases his creative input in the band.
Poppy Alice took centre stage for one number, performing her own track Just as I am. Poppy obviously relished the chance to perform with the Orchestra, and the use of the flute added a vaguely celtic lilt to proceedings. The star of the song though is Poppy’s voice – she delivers the defiant lyrics of the song with emotion and conviction, keeping the whole audience rapt.
In addition to their original material, the set also included several cover versions. Their version of Volcano by Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan is more layered and rhythmically driving than the original version, and again features some excellent vocal interplay between Paul, Poppy and Steve. The set is closed out with a cover of the bizarrely-titled Ba da ba da by Kent electro-folk band Sound Sanctuary. More upbeat than most of the set, it proved an excellent choice for a final number, and let the audience wanting more. And certainly, one of the big appeals of the Paul Dunton Ensemble is that, because their lineup depends on the scale of the venue, the arrangements will differ between gigs – an audience could see them again in another lineup and have a completely different listening experience.
If you are a fan of the rich atmospheric pop of bands like Pink Floyd, Elbow and Massive Attack, then Paul Dunton and his fellow musicians come highly recommended.
Recurring Dream & Escapism
The Swoosh Song
Last Chance (Turin Brakes)
Just as I am (Poppy Alice)
Volcano (Damien Rice)
Ba da ba
Review by Ian Griffiths – Resound Media