The Borderline, London - 19/03/02

With the news that the band had just been dropped by their record label, Island, we gingerly descended in to the subterranean cavern of the Borderline not quite sure what to expect tonight. They would either play their hearts out to impress or just go through the motions, depressed and with a murky future. It didn’t bode too well when we spotted the band clustered around a table at the back of the club nursing their pints. Guitarist, Ray Chan, put on a brave face and chatted to some members of the audience who recognised him. Perhaps this is one of their problems - the band are not yet instantly recognisable and after two really good albums they should be. A lot of blame must be laid on Island’s shore - they simply did not give sufficient backing to promote the band and then seem surprised when the album doesn’t sell in bucketloads. Witness could do well in the current climate and in terms of originality surpass the likes of Travis and Starsailor etc So what about tonight’s show?  The low-key support by US singer Danny Couglan was largely ignored by the barflies although she tried hard against indifferent amplification and with her US intonations could make for better listening at home. Witness came on stage to muted applause and plunged straight into an excellent set. There are some quibbles though - Gerald needs to connect more with the audience , there was little patter between songs which made us feel like we were watching more of a rehearsal than a show. We all know that their songs are great and the performance tonight was fine but there was still something not quite right . I do wonder if the less than rosy future had some part in this - they certainly seemed in a hurry to leave the stage after only a 75minute set and the audience were not keen to encourage them back.  There were highlights, a great “You are all my own Invention” a brilliant “Pushchair” a classic “My Boat” and  a fine set closer with “Heirloom” but one of my favourite songs “Avalanche” seemed rushed and ended suddenly. Ray made good use of the Glissando guitar providing  the band's unique sound , he even had  a good stab at imitating some of the keyboard parts previously played by Julian Pranskey. There were several new songs played tonight and they were far rockier than the previous material and may well  herald  a slightly new direction for the band as a four piece guitar outfit - moving further into melodic rock territory and away from the country influences that we so love. With any luck such a great band will not be left long in the wilderness and some of this new material will get to see the shiny side of a CD in the not too distant future.

Tim Morris

(taken from