Singer-songwriter, Charlie Bateman, performs an engaging folk set live at Chaplin’s in Boscombe on Tuesday 21st March.
Having not stepped foot in Boscombe before, it was difficult to determine what the little sea-side town would hold in store. Escaping the cold March wind, there comes a blast of warm air inside a dimly lit, cosy and quirky room, it was clear straight away that Chaplin’s is a local music venue to be cherished by its locals. The upstairs room was by no means packed full of people, in fact there were perhaps only a couple of dozen in the room. These people were sat playing chess and drinking, and were the cause of a relaxing hum of white noise, creating a gentile ambience. This, you would think, is the perfect setting for an intimate acoustic performance, and it certainly was.
After only being in ‘Chaplin’s’ for 10 minutes, there approached a young gentleman sporting a modest checkered shirt and a pint of lager. This was Charlie Bateman, an acoustic folk artist from Hampshire. Charlie began playing guitar at the age of 11 and started gigging when he was 16. Having played the gig circuit for a while Charlie founded his own folk-indie band called ‘Thinker’ three years later. Charlie’s main influence is The Levellers.
This particular gig Charlie was playing in Boscombe is part of his March tour around the Dorset region. “Thinker are having a bit of a hiatus at the moment because the fiddle player is in the royal marines” said Charlie, looking entirely relaxed and at ease before his set. Despite his band’s temporary brake, Charlie said that he has his own backing band when he plays festivals in the summer, but after watching him play, you could argue he doesn’t need a band at all.
Charlie played a mixture of his own original songs as well as some covers. Kickstarting the set were two of Charlie’s own songs, which are to be featured on an upcoming album which is currently in the making. What was immediately clear was that Charlie has developed his own interesting guitar playing style. In the second song in particular Charlie was making use of intricate finger picking as well as some interesting chord progressions. This was great to see, as Charlie could effortlessly breeze through chord progressions enabling his voice to come to the fore.
Equally impressive was the rig Charlie was playing through; a SoloAmp, capable of amplifying sound at up to 16kHz, as well as a rustic Gibson J45 deluxe guitar, which kicked out a warm tone. This was perfect for Charlie’s sound, as there was plenty of clarity in the vocals as well as a thumping, but not an overbearing guitar sound.
Charlie’s songs were succinct and to the point, this was refreshing to see, as his songs were stripped to their bare essentials. Many of Charlie’s own songs are also quite rousing, because Charlie made great use of his percussive and bluesy playing style. One song was even in a 5/4 time signature. “It’s normally volume and tempo that helps to get people’s attention when playing in pubs” Charlie reckons.
A particular favourite song was ‘Bullets’, written about Charlie’s friend in the army. This song followed similar suit to his other songs, whereby it was well structured, but what really enticed was his sense of pain in his lyrics. The song also made good use of Charlie’s vocals, which were much softer than expected. It is in fact a voice reminiscent of Paul Heaton from The Beautiful South; easy on the ear and a sits comfortably in the higher register.
Another focal point of the set was Charlie’s own version of ‘Umbrella’ by Rhianna. “I don’t really like the song” said Charlie, “but people like to hear things that they know, and I never play songs the way they originally are which keeps it interesting.” Charlie’s version certainly engaged, and it definitely had a few heads nodding in the venue.
One person that enjoyed Charlie’s set was Zoot Valler, who works behind the bar at Chaplin’s. Whilst Zoot was pouring a pint of Aspall’s Cider and Charlie was playing the Lumineers ‘Ho Hey’, Zoot said that Charlie “has put his own modern twist on some cover music which is really refreshing to hear, he also has a really soft voice which is perfect for a relaxed atmosphere – it’s just a shame there aren’t more people here.”
On that note, there really weren’t many people watching Charlie’s set. Whilst some songs would rouse a few cheers from the dozen-strong crowd, there were moments within the set that the audience seemed disengaged and were simply chatting amongst themselves. What was also a little disconcerting was that Charlie was using a music stand complete with lyrics which was down by his feet. Yes, Charlie did play a large set, but it perhaps tainted what was otherwise a very professional image.
I would definitely download his music!”
Despite this, those who did watch Charlie’s set seemed to enjoy it. Sharing a similar opinion as Zoot Valler was Tom Walker, who was sat at the bar, engrossed in Charlie’s performance. “I thought he was great, I really liked the approach he has with the audience. I would definitely download his music!” Tom is in a blues band himself, called Della Grants, and said that he also enjoyed watching Charlie’s guitar playing.
The set came to a close. Whilst there was not a thunderous applause, or a stampede of fans chasing after him, it seemed that Charlie Bateman was completely at ease with his music and progressing forward. “I am currently working on a ten track album. This is following on from my debut album called ‘Fall out fall in’. I have set up my own record label with my band ‘Thinker’ and I am going to pitch my new songs to various other labels before releasing the album so that I can hopefully get some support behind my new songs.” A smart move indeed.
As the last few stragglers left the bar and as Charlie packed his acoustic guitar back into its case, Charlie was expressing his excitement for his next upcoming gigs. The set was enjoyable. In fact, thoroughly pleasant. Whilst the night perhaps wasn’t shared by as many fans as Charlie was hoping for, those who were there can agree that it was certainly nothing to shake a finger at. Bring on the new Charlie Bateman album!