Faustus is a folk trio comprising Paul Sartin, Saul Rose and Benji Kirkpatrick, all of whom are amazing musicians and singers; together they make a wonderfully big sound for such a small group. They could be described as a very democratic band as individuals share lead vocals in different songs. This is the first time I have ever seen Faustus live, although I am quite familiar with their music and am massively fond of the band Dr Faustus, which Faustus was formed from. Furthermore, Theatr Mwldan is a lovely venue for folk and acoustic gigs; the acoustics are wonderful and it has a very friendly atmosphere.
After a witty introduction by Benji and Saul, ‘Broken Down Gentlemen’, the title track of their brilliant new album, was sung by Benji, with Saul on Squeeze box and Paul on fiddle. This is an incredibly catchy song about a young man who is careless with money and reaps the consequences. Although the message of the song is serious and it is hardly a happy story, the tune that accompanies it is rather jolly, making it a very appropriate start to the light hearted atmosphere of the set. This was followed by Saul singing the lively song ‘Prentice Boy’ set to a merry morris tune called ‘Highland Mary’. The story concerns two young lovers discussing their wedding plans, when unexpectedly the boyfriend decides to murder his lover!
The song that followed, ‘American Stranger’, I thought was incredibly beautiful. The words are set to a tune called ‘Princess Waltz’ that Paul wrote for a friend’s wedding. It is a lovely tune and suits the words which are a love song. Then came my favourite song of the first half, ‘Blow the Windy Morning’. This wonderfully catchy song is about a lonely Sheppard who finds a woman at a brook and takes a liking to her. I particularly like the rhythmic element of this song, added to by Saul’s melodeon playing, and a chorus that begs to be sung along to.
Another highlight for me was the song ‘Lovely Johnny’, which was described as an ‘anti-love’ song. It about a woman who is intent on marrying to Johnny, however, Johnny is not so keen. Again it has a very catchy refrain and a wonderfully fitting instrumentation that add to the angry feeling of the song.
The most affecting song of the set for me was ‘the Captain’s Apprentice’. This is a tragic story about a boy who is apprenticed to a cruel captain but the point of view is the captain’s. Apparently it was written after a series of real events making it more poignant. Paul Sartin sang lead vocals and it began with a rather sparse accompaniment to his singing appropriate to the sombre theme. At the end of the song there was an instrumental part in which Paul played the tune on the fiddle. There was distinct pause whilst the last not of this resonated in the air before the applause started indicating that the audience was as affected by the song as I was. The singing and instrumentation was just so powerful and emotional, yet beautiful and delicate. It was the sort of moment that could never come across on a recording of the song; it relied on the audience as well as the musicians.
However, this solemn atmosphere did not last long. Faustus continued by playing a wonderfully lively tune set. It was masterfully performed, showing what skilful musicians they are. Furthermore, it was very much a toe tapper of a tune set which incorporated some beautiful instrumental harmonies. I am sure if there had been room there would have been dancing.
The set finished with ‘The Og’s Eye man’ which is a catchy sea shanty, with a chorus that begs to be sung along to. My favourite feature about this song is the vocal harmonies that make the song compelling to listen to. Also, it is another lively song, especially with Benji’s powerfully rhythmic guitar playing added to the mix. After an astounding loud round of applause, they played the song ‘Brisk Lad’ as an encore. This was a song collected from Paul’s relative, as he proudly explained, pointing out the miserable theme of the song. This song was sung so beautifully and was the perfect ending to a wonderful gig. It incorporated some incredible vocal harmonies and was sung with limited instrumentation adding to the misery of the song.
Faustus' website: http://www.faustusband.com/Home.aspx
Youtube video - 'Brisk Lad' : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK6n7kptojU
Youtube video - 'Blow The Windy Morning' :http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=eh3nI49tWaM
Youtube video - 'Broken Down Gentlemen' :http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnTwGHQqqZI