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Waiting around for the gig to start, bathed in ambient red light. I’m at Café Totem in Sheffield city centre, which is hosting the ‘Back in the living’ acoustic tour for Jonny Brown. Former frontman for Twisted Wheel, Jonny is being supported by John McCullagh (Vultures) and Tom Haywood (The Blinders).

First on is John McCullagh, casually sitting on a stool, centre stage with his guitar. He begins to play, wafting an upbeat blues vibe into the room. He plays songs such as ‘Towerland Lullaby’ and ‘Far away’ – singing about life and love and covering ‘Between the bars’ by Elliot Smith. Whacking out a neck-braced harmonica for ‘New York City’, his musical licks and pitch bends are on form. John’s joined by Tom Haywood for a duet, highlighting their friendly familiarity with each other. He ends his set with a morbid tune about death, rounding off his musical range.
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Speaking to John in between sets, he mentions the Vultures recent parting of ways – all amicably of course. John hints that he and Nathan Keeble have a collaboration project underway and to keep eyes peeled for future events.

23261775_1909024506085819_1839137646_oNext, Tom Haywood supports, fresh faced and starting with a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Ballad of a thin man’. Tom’s got a good vocal range and is quickly forgiven for forgetting his set list. He continues with an acoustic version of ‘Ramona Flowers’ by his band The Blinders. Although his voice is slightly gravelly, he sings a heartfelt and melodic set. He reassures the audience “I’ve not been on cocaine – I’ve got a cold!” and finishes with a sombre ballad.

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There’s a long wait for Jonny Brown’s stage entrance, and he starts his set with Twisted Wheel belter ‘Bad Candy’. He sings tunes, such as ‘Oh what have you done’ and ‘Bang of the Beat’. Egged on by cries of “Go on Jonny” and girls sitting on their dates shoulders – the room sings along at the top of their voices. Jonny banters with his following in between songs, admitting “I’ve not slept in days”, but he’s giving it his all. Towards the end of his set he is joined by John McCullagh for a duet. The vibe is energised until the closing song and it’s clear everyone’s having a great time.

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Jonny spoke with Northern Exposure and is excited for his 2018 tour. He is currently in the process of forming a band but couldn’t give more details.  He “really enjoyed Sheffield” and will be back early next year. All in all, the gig is a fantastic alternative experience of some talented musicians. The ‘Back in the Living’ tour continues until the 16th of December (see below for details).

Gig dates:
Fri 15th Dec -Manchester – Band on the Wall
Sat 16 th Dec Kendal- Brewery Arts Centre

Christina Vanhinsbergh

Photos: Mal Whichelow

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