June 18, 2009
One day some years ago in South Devon, a young man swapped his Sinclair Spectrum 48k computer for an electric guitar and a fifteen watt amp. What became of the new owner of that iconic home computer is unknown. The kid that excitedly took home a second-hand guitar that day strolls out onto the sparse stage and strums through the songs on his debut album ‘Dead Man’s Suit’.
Charming and softly spoken, on record Allen sounds not unlike a youthful Rod Stewart. Live, he accompanies himself with an acoustic guitar and occasional harmonica. He namechecks Bob Dylan as an influence himself, but his performance also recalls such singer/songwriters as James Taylor and Tim Buckley.
Songs like ‘Friends’ wear the Dylan influence heavily, but that’s no bad thing. Allen clearly has a talent for penning, tender, touching songs.
As he plays ‘Lay Your Burden Down’ a girl beside me, slowly begins to weep. By the end of the song she’s blubbing uncontrollably. Her friend, who had spent the preceeding four minutes sending text messages, attempts to comfort her. She puts an arm around her.
“What are you like?” she asks.
“It’s such a beautiful song,” says the girl beginning to compose herself. Her friend rubs her on the arm before wandering off with her phone held out in front of her, presumably to get a better reception.
Our crying girl is not the exception, there are several people in the room who appear to be moved by Allen’s heartfelt songwriting.
Unfortunately the half-full venue has plenty of people far more interested in having a chat with their pals than in listening to the songs. One group have a lengthy discussion about what beers Tut’s has on tap, before all four loudly settle on pints of Stella.
The fans who actually came to listen to the music spend a lot of time ‘shooshing’ people around them. Allen seems continually humbled that he’s developed an audience, happy to come out to see him play live. As he wonders out loud why this is an voice from the back of the room explains.
“You’re fuckin’ brilliant mate.”
When it’s time to close the show with ‘In Your Light’ the crowd whoop with delight. Allen still seems grateful that he’s developed a following but he takes the opportunity to encourage a singalong.
An engaging live performer, Allen and his songs have the potential for him to become ubiquitous almost to the point of annoyance.