Some performers can be too engaging, too friendly, too accommodating towards a well wishing audience. A good portion of this intimate, accomplished concert was given over to a good-humoured though ultimately intrusive verbal duel. At various times we learnt Stephen Fretwell had been sent to the barbers with a photo of George Clooney by his wife and that the patronage of James Cordon, in using 'Run 'as the theme to BBC’s 'Gavin and Stacey', paid for his new kitchen. He actually stopped a song to tell us that.

This is all well and good, but it stopped any momentum building up, and the audience members who seemed to like the sound of their own voices more than Fretwell’s took a long time to get the message that it wasn’t funny. Apart from that, this was a confident, polished one man show from Fretwell who featured most of the highlights from his last two albums, 'Magpie' and 'Man on the Roof'.

Though hailing from Scunthorpe, Fretwell’s singing is decidedly tinged by his residence in Manchester. Indeed, he often sounds not unlike Liam Gallagher, only in tune. Solo with acoustic , rather than with a full band as he is on the albums, the songs rarely get out of first gear and lose some of the texture of the originals, although they perhaps gain something by losing the sheen of studio production. The songs, often tinged by disappointment and failure, are stripped bare to full effect.

The superb 'Emily', 'Coney', 'New York' and the wonderful 'William Shatner’s Dog' are all delivered with an intensity and honesty that is mesmerising. Fretwell is a natural performer. He just needs to learn to control his audience.

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Commenting On: Luminaire, London, 15/12/2009 - Stephen Fretwell

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