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Hothouse Flowers – Monday 1st May 2023

Clare Sands/Hothouse Flowers – Let’s Do This Thing UK Tour 2023 -Queens Hall, Nuneaton, 1st May 2023.

Clare Sands

Clare Sands set was always going to be good given her musical heritage, many collaborations and the quality of her songs and latest album. A 6th generation fiddle player and bilingual singer, she delivers her short set with passion and humour moving between fiddle and guitar, the bells on the shoes stomping the beat – cool touch.
Despite being a bit reluctant to join in the chorus on one of the tracks, (maybe it’s a bit early in the evening), the crowd were all on board by the end of this opening set. For me ‘Sail On’ and ‘Keep the Flame Burning’ from her self-titled album from 2022 were particular highlights. Clare Sands is an accomplished musician with great songs and it would be good to see a full headline set as she counts guitar, keyboards and percussion among her instruments and is an amazing talent.


Hothouse Flowers

The well assembled faithful at the Queens Hall could not have anticipated the treat that was in store as Liam Ó Maonlaí (vocals, keyboards), Fiachna Ó Braonáin (guitar, vocals), Peter O’Toole (bass, vocals) and Dave Clarke (drums) take their positions. They launch into their set with an impromptu jam about Nuneaton and how wonderful the place is. This brings a smile to the faces of the audience as they obey Liam’s request to move forward so they can be part of the show. Although Ó Maonlaí orchestrates everything from his central stage position this is a band who benefit from many years together and an ability to read each other and change tempo and feel with ease. The set is mesmerizing, sometimes it feels structured, and at other times like a loose jam that draws you in. They are great musicians with the drumming providing the grooves and you could see at times the jams weren’t rehearsed.
The set goes from slow traditional ballads into manic keyboard driven rhythms with tracks like ‘I’m Sorry’ with Liam losing his glasses about half- way through the set. With the passage of time, I can see more than ever the influences of the likes of Dylan, Van Morrison, The Waterboys, The Doors and at times even Talking Heads.
There is a sense of musical togetherness in this show where the aim is for band and audience to become one. 2 female fans from the audience sang backing of ‘Sweet Marie’ and given the excellent harmonies already in the band this was almost gospel like. ‘Don’t Go’ is delivered with an almost samba feel which shows how confident they are. Their tracks stand the test of time. ‘Isn’t It Amazing’ is powerful and Johnny Nash cover, ‘I Can See Clearly Now’, is sublime with Liam’s voice as good as it’s ever been. They throw in delicate Irish folk songs like that delivered by Fiachna Ó Braonáin at the end of the set which give an
added dimension to the performance.
In the encore we are treated to Clare Sands joining on electric violin with the band throwing in the tin whistle as they draw the set to a climatic close. Apparently, they don’t do setlists and no two shows are the same which is impressive as this was some jam session and the two and a hour set seemed to fly by.
Hopefully they come back soon as promised as Hothouse Flowers are a wonderful rock’n’roll band, a traditional band, a soul band and deliver enthralling ballads.
Good to see a mixed age audience and three young men were at the front for much of the gig. Liam chatted to them towards the end of the set and gave them the cash for a round – Big
shout out to them as according to Liam the future will be safe in their hands.
An excellent show and hopefully they will return soon.


Steve Brain

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