Withered Hand, the stage and band name of Dan Willson, was welcomed by a ravenous crowd at the Queen’s Hall this Fringe. His melodious charm has earned him a solid fan base, whose backgrounds and age-range are refreshingly diverse. Showcasing a number of new songs from his upcoming album, he apologised for having taken four years to complete it. No apology was needed after he got going, his signature warbling voice a welcome sound, as well as the unmistakable thundering feeling that runs through these incredible new additions to his repertoire.
After support acts Second Hand Marching Band, Eugene Kelly and King Creosote (an enormous treat in his own right), we were more than warmed up for Willson, who was accompanied on stage by almost every act that had preceded him. This made for some musical chaos and major excitement in the crowd, justifying the 'ramshackle tag' Willson tells us he is trying to shake off.
He performs a good few of the old favourites, such as the thumping melody of 'Heart Heart', the pulsing and driving rhythm of 'New Dawn' and softly pacing 'Providence'. The first two turn into major stomping shout-alongs, making it no surprise to us Withered Hand newbies that last year's gig saw four fans chucked out, another even needing resuscitation in the toilets.
The main music focus does however fall upon Willson's new pieces, many of which are absolute corkers. 'The King of Hollywood' is one of his rockier ones that feels careless and throwaway, much like the edgy lyrics suggest. 'Black Tambourine' is a huge and buzzing success with the crowd. There are also much darker numbers, the standout of which has to be 'California'. It is songs like these that demonstrate best the power of Willson's trembling, soft vocals, which carry such heavy melancholy gorgeously.