Yes, this show was about a month ago… I have only recently arrived back in Vancouver after the trip this show was a part of!
Anyhow, I likely would never have made a plan to go to Oxford of my own accord, since I tend to prefer wandering around the smaller coastal bits of the UK than the cities, but unsurprisingly, it turns out Oxford is a pretty nice place, so it was a good little transition stop between London and Conwy. The reason for stopping in here though was a show announced by Liu Bei shortly before I left for this trip. Liu Bei is a band I know about by way of their keyboard player, Patrick, who takes on these same duties in Dry the River, which I am quite fond of and would see a smashing show from, despite all-round illnesses, in Sheffield a couple weeks later. Take a heart-squishingly sweet/sad sound, vocals that breathe through you, a bit of airy reverb, throw in a falcon (putting a bird on it will get me every time) and guest vocals from a member of Slowdive and you have a pretty appealing mix of elements wrapped up in a neat package. Sure, after I’d planned everything else, they announced a few more shows, including London, but that’s okay – nice to be in a new environment for a night, as well as singer Richard Walters’ home town.
The show was at The Cellar, a tiny bar downstairs from a claustrophobic old alley off the pedestrianized shopping street in Oxford. As a college town, I suppose there is a built-in crowd many nights of the week, but I also suspect it’s a bit of an event when Walters returns home, and no matter, since Liu Bei is so lovely. They’d had some pretty good press in town leading up to the show as well – it would have been difficult for a local live-music-goer not to be interested in this show, even with no prior knowledge of the band. Word is getting around.
Liu Bei was joined tonight by openers Willie J Healey and Be Good. Both of these are Oxford groups, and both quite different from one another and worth the early arrival. Healey is a young, flame-haired spitfire with a jaunty character and vocal sensibility that puts you back into an 80s pop rock mindframe. Be Good had more of a relaxed and charming folk sound. Liu Bei did not disappoint, leaving a few hearts on the floor by the time they were done. Rachel Goswell from Slowdive was in attendance and joined them on stage for a pulsating, barely-there song called “Fields,” which she appears on the recorded version of as well. Slowdive had just been in Vancouver a couple months earlier and I’d somehow managed not to go, so this was definitely an added little treat. The stageside audience seemed to be acquainted with everyone on tonight – a lot of friends in the room. The lighting in this venue was a bit of a challenge, but hey, we got away with a few shots anyhow. Photos below in reverse order of appearance.