Dancing in the margins

Nik Kershaw. Picture by Steve Ullathorne

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Duke Special

The Wedgewood Rooms

There aren’t too many gigs at the Wedge that feature songs about the birth of popular photography, Huckleberry Finn’s dad in the garden of Eden or forgotten 50s divas.

Let alone a mid-set interlude with a reading of a poem about a dancer and a drag queen.

And if that sounds pretentious, amazingly it’s not.

Duke Special, Belfast songwriter Pete Wilson, looks like a bedraggled Tim Minchin at his piano, but with a sweeter singing voice and less obvious jokes.

His plaintive love songs send tingles down the spine. And when he announces a few songs in that they have no setlist and invites requests, it’s unsurprising that calls for radio hit Freewheeling are loudest.

Wilson tosses it off, sort of begrudgingly whilst acknowledging it’s popularity, but it’s still a beautiful, life-affirming piece of work.

Flesh and Blood follows, with sterling work from surprisingly bombastic drummer Chip Bailey, aka The Temperance Society.

For the encore, support act and local fave Joe Black joins on Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me to the End of Love. It’s a curiously affecting take on the dapper don’s love song.

Wilson has flirted with the mainstream, but on this evidence he’s happiest dancing in the margins.