Paper Aeroplanes and Martyn Joseph are Welsh singer songwriters, making a natural combination to tour together. Martyn Joseph is renowned across the globe for his distinctive, skilful guitar playing and thoughtful songs. Hailing from Milford Haven, Paper Aeroplanes, comprising Sarah Howells and Richard Llewellyn have just released their third album as duo and have built a large fan base for music, especially in this area of Wales. Furthermore, Theatr Mwldan is a natural venue for such a tour, as it is incredibly committed to the promotion of Welsh music.
The first half of the gig was a set from Paper Aeroplanes. Sarah Howells has an incredibly distinctive, haunting voice and Richard Llewellyn added wonderful harmonies to the duo and is a great guitar player. However, the songs lack distinct features and, to me, are not wonderfully catchy. Their tunes do not compel you to listen to the words; instead, they sound pleasant and are relaxing. In a sense they are quite introverted, like the performers themselves, as though background knowledge is needed to understand them and the emotion behind them. However, overall I really did enjoy the set. Additionally, I enjoyed the instrumentation. The two guitars worked really well together; however, I preferred the addition of the mandolin as it introduced a different sound into the mix.
One of my favourite songs of the set was ‘My First Love’. This song was probably the most memorable, with a reasonably catchy tune and sweet lyrics to accompany it. I really like the way in which Sarah uses the higher register of her voice in this song. Also the rhythmic guitar accompaniment really fitted the song giving it a more cheerful atmosphere. Furthermore, I especially enjoyed the haunting quality of the song ‘Circus’. This song matches Sarah’s haunting voice and its slightly creepy tune was intriguing and compelling.
After the interval, Martyn Joseph took to the stage with much enthusiasm and energy. He truly is a master of making his wonderful guitar playing look effortless. He is certainly a performer as well as a musician. His set was full of energy and excitement, as well as audience interaction, quite the opposite to the style of performance from Paper Aeroplanes. Throughout the set Martyn mostly played his own catchy, upbeat material.
Martyn has recently released an album of his versions of Bruce Springsteen songs. He is often referred to as the Welsh Springsteen. Therefore, it is not surprising that during the set he allowed the audience the opportunity to select two Bruce Springsteen songs from a list of six for Martyn to sing. The audience chose for him to sing his version of ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’ which I thought was incredibly beautiful. The second song he sung ‘No Surrender’ had a very different feel to it. He accompanied himself on ukulele which was not amplified and therefore Martyn had to hold it up to the microphone. However, the quietness of the ukulele was a foil for Martyn’s strong singing voice. Also, although the ukulele was perhaps an unusual choice for the song, it was really effective and gave it an incredibly acoustic feel.
The most affecting song of the set has to be ‘Five Sisters’ which is a true story about casualties from the conflict in Palestine. The conflict in Palestine is clearly a subject that Martyn cares about greatly and this comes through in the song, in the beautiful and poignant melody and the lyrics which tell a sombre story.
One of my favourite songs of Martyn Joseph’s was ‘I’m on my way’ which has a really catchy chorus and is very enjoyable to listen to. The audience were encouraged to join in and definitely did so, which always adds to the enjoyment of a song for me and shows that the audience were enjoying the gig as much as I was.
One of the best moments of the set was when Martyn Joseph stepped of the stage and into the audience. Although his guitar playing was still being amplified, he managed to sing over it. It was a lovely moment that proved he has a natural talent for being heard acoustically as well as through an amplifier. Furthermore, this, and his constant habit of walking about the stage, made it a visual show as well as something to be listened to. As I said, he is a performer, not just a musician, and that takes real skill.
The best part of the gig has to be the encore. For this, Martyn Joseph and Paper Aeroplanes all took the stage. Paper Aeroplanes sang the song ‘Newport Beach’ which has local connections to the area so it went down incredibly well. I think it is my favourite Paper Aeroplane song, as it carries a catchy tune and engaging lyrics. Furthermore, the instrumentation was really appropriate and exciting, especially with Martyn Joseph playing guitar and harmonica on top of Paper Aeroplanes two guitars. There were many lovely harmonies incorporated into this song as well. After this, the three of them sang Martyn’s song ‘Still a lot of Love’ which was the perfect way to end such a lovely evening. Again, the audience joined in on the chorus and it felt as though every single person in the room was part of the performance in some way.