I entered the intimate Oxford Art Factory room on Thursday night to Jack Colwell and The Owls, who were playing an expressive, multi-instrumental set. To my delight, a flute, cello, recorder, tambourine – and I’m pretty sure I saw a violin too – made it on-stage at least once during the performance. This was in addition to the usual vocals, keys and guitar. With more than enough personality – mostly on the part of Colwell – some audience feedback was that the band lacks authenticity as artists. No doubt a talented bunch, their sincerity (or lack of) rests on your discernment.
I went to this gig unsure of what to expect; Brendan Maclean’s music is a little more pop than my usual style of choice. I was pleasantly surprised to find I thoroughly enjoyed his set. If you’re looking for a soundtrack to your fun and fabulous life, look no further: catchy pop tunes with a creative edge are Brendan’s forté, and he showcased his distinctive style with exuberance and precision on the Oxford Art Factory stage.
The man of the moment emerged looking nonchalantly fashionable in a ripped shirt and his signature eye make-up – green rather than the usual pink, signalling his preparation for a more ‘rock’ night. I was drawn in from the beginning while he was just warming up – Brendan’s definitely in his zone when playing the keys, which he does beautifully.
He started the show as a lone figure on-stage, bursting into song with a powerful, engaging voice that’s a pleasure to listen to. Brendan soon invited the band up, with bass, guitar and drums joining in the unusually loud performance – a contrast to Brendan’s usual on-stage appearances accompanied only by a keyboard. They kicked off enthusiastically, and this energy continued throughout the show.
What’s special about Brendan is his vivacity and verve, which carry his catchy melodies in such a way that you can’t help but be carried along with them. I also appreciate the unpretentiousness and openness that Brendan exudes, which is a breath of fresh air on the music scene. He showed his sense of humour, encouraging us to participate in a ‘hoe down’ (“smell the hay now!”) and also his sweet and sensitive side, dedicating a rendition of ‘Nothing Compares To You’ to his sick mum.
Brendan’s EP songs ‘Practically Wasted’ and ‘Cold & Happy’ are original and likeable, and he gave an altogether solid performance that didn’t reek of pop clichés. The night rounded off with an impressive rendition of ‘Telephone’ in honour of “[his] god, Lady Gaga”, which was welcomed with cheers and a general breaking out on the dance floor.