Sweet Billy Pilgrim
St Mary’s Church, Guildford
It was the end of an era when Sweet Billy Pilgrim played an emotional farewell gig with the band’s current formation. It’s a testament to local promoter Howard Smith that the group wanted to play this one-off gig in Guildford.
A beautiful support set came from Farnham-based Richard Walters, straight from national radio. Then the lead Sweet Billy Pilgrim singers, Tim Elsenburg and Jana Carpenter, came on stage to premiere two acoustic numbers Sudden Stars and Asking for a Friend. A high risk strategy, carried off with consummate ease. Bassist Anthony Bishop joined for awe-inspiring harmonies on Chasing Horses before the rest of the band took to the stage.
Seemingly the duo format could be a new direction for the group. The rise in prominence of Carpenter’s vocals, often in dual harmony with Elsenburg, has become an increasing feature of the group’s work. She shone with a gorgeous rendition of Tyrekickers, with enhanced harmonies.
Highlights of the evening included the powerful Candle, Book & Bell, Make It So, Joyful Reunion and Archaeology. In Fast Forward much practice goes in to sounding this wonderfully discordant and it took the audience from “disco to the blues” according to Elsenburg.
Good news for fans is that the show was filmed and that Sweet Billy Pilgrim will carry on in a new guise. This is intelligent music with attitude, slick licks and emotion. The band cannot be pigeon-holed into a category and this is perhaps why considerable critical acclaim has not brought commercial success.
There will be a new chapter in the development of Sweet Billy Pilgrim, which is safe in the hands of Elsenburg, Carpenter and whoever they choose to work with.
The night’s standout track was We Just Did What Happened. They did. To finish the evening, Kracklite. What else?