Gig Scene: My most haunting live show of the year

Gig Scene star - The singer Chrysta Bell.
Gig Scene star - The singer Chrysta Bell.

By Graham Chalmers

If there’s one gig which has continued to haunt me this year, it’s a show with modern American vamp Chrysta Bell.

This smouldering alternative ‘torch’ singer played the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds earlier in the year as part of a short UK tour.

Forget Lana Del Ray, Chrysta Bell was the real deal, slightly spooky but truly memorable.

I turned up partly because famous filmmaker Lynch produced and co-wrote this Texas chaunteuse’s debut album The Train but also partly because her seasoned touring band features an American musician friend of mine from Harrogate.

Quadrod plays keyboards and ‘soundscapes’ (it’s the Texas link - he’s from San Antonio).

The show which unfolded was as heavy with atmosphere as any I can remember.

Lynch himself introduced this strikingly beautiful singer and her band - albeit in a video on a big screen.

Maybe it was the lighting or the David Lynch film projections or the Nick Cave meets the Cocteau Twins sounds of her brilliant ambient blues accompanists but this was no ordinary gig.

It was almost as if Chrysta Bell was operating in the centre of a 3D film noir space in her own lost highway.

With a haunting voice, flick knife eyes and perfect poise, she was no dreamy Julee Cruise, to mention a previous Lynch musical collaborator from his Blue Velvet Days.

This was a dangerous woman with a damaged history, like Julie London singing at the scene of a murder, who also just happened to write her own songs.

As good as the music was her own single Real Love, delicious cover versions of Be Bop a Lula and Baby, Please Don’t Go, they aren’t the reason this show haunts me still.

It felt throughout as if Chrysta Bell and Quadrod and the rest of her impressive band were in the middle of a weird but beguiling movie - and myself and the rest of the hushed audience were in it, too.

For fans of ‘baggy’ era Brit rock there’s some great news – and it’s pretty exciting for ex-Harrogate musicians Jon Sutcliffe and Andrew Needle, too.

They’re both members of brilliant indie guitar rock band Sulk who are to support Happy Mondays on their 25th anniversary tour of the classic album Bummed from all the dates from November 28.

Having launched their excellent debut album Graceless in London earlier in the year, Sulk will now be appearing with Shaun Ryder and co at the likes of Leeds 02 Academy (November 30) and similar venues in Glasgow, Liverpool, Bristol and more.

You might remember Sulk from a stunning show they played at Monteys in Harrogate with London band Dark Bells in May.

You might remember Rutles creator Neil Innes playing Frazer Theatre in Knaresborough a few years back, well, this ex-Monty Python musical contributor is appearing at Whitby shortly as part of the Musicport Festival.

This veteran master of musical comedy was also a founder member of the legendary Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band in 1964.

As part of the festival, he will be will be performing at Whitby Pavilion on Sunday, October 20. His autobiographical film The Seventh Python will also be screened at 3pm the same day.

Other acts in Musicport this year include Neville Staples of The Specials, Saharan blues outfit Tamikrest, Skip ‘Little Axe’ McDonald and Bosnian singer Amria.

For more information visit www.musicportfestival.com