Not to be confused with The Magic Lanterns, that globe-straddling, universally well-known 1960s psychedelic band from Warrington. The singular incarnation, The Magic Lantern is one Jamie Doe from London-way. It may be easy to admire singer-songwriters with boring names holding the attention of aircraft hangar-sized arenas with songs about being helplessly in love whilst a sea of iPhone cameras document every second. However, hearing one person command a small upstairs room above a West Country pub, transporting them all to another time and place is surely equally, if not even more impressive and, refreshingly, there’s not a phone in sight.
Certainly not the archetypal music venue, the Tank Room literally is the Brew House’s operations room. It hosts what appear to be two enormous chrome beer tanks encased behind a transparent screen. As if to prime us for the ambience of timelessness that seems to linger over tonight’s proceedings, we arrive slightly startled to find the support act is an open mic session that includes rather a bizarre Joan Baez cover. There’s a cosy, library-esque reverence in the room which is only heightened by the horrific weather outside, a distinctly uninspired midweek winter-gloom has sapped the spirit somewhat.
We’re hugely indebted to people like The Magic Lantern; his charm warms us like a Christmas fire. His performance thrives in the hushed intimacy; the biggest mistake any performer can make in this kind of setting is to be overly earnest in-between songs but Doe has the whole act nailed when it comes to dispelling any awkward silences. Offsetting the gravitas of his songs with charisma and wit, he stands apart from many other solo singer songwriters which is half the battle won. There’s an old-world American spirit within his music that traces back to Woody Guthrie and Chet Baker. His beautifully downbeat tunes also call upon Jeff Buckley and the English folk canon. He opens the set with his voice alone filling the room; there’s an archaic turntable sitting silently in the corner of the stage. It’s a fitting prop for we’re transported to a parallel realm where songs and stories are shared in the living room in a postwar suburban US household. The chiming, Harvest Moon, sounds nothing like the Neil Young song. An instrumental piece has stark, haunting echoes of Nick Drake’s Horn. Lyrically he has that ability to paint the most vivid pictures, at one point singing about a man and his dog in space. The real highlight is Cut From Stone, underpinned by a cantering guitar motif, recalling Patrick Wolf’s more chamber-folk moments. An evening of calm and comfort as the winter storms whip in.