Daniel Wakeford – The Haunt – 16th December 2017

Daniel Wakeford – The Haunt
Photo by Jonski Mason

A Daniel Wakeford gig is bottled joy at any time of the year, but the feel-good factor cranks up a notch or four when it takes place in Daniel’s home town a week before Christmas. Many people know Daniel’s face, voice and signature curls from the unfortunately and misleadingly titled television series, ‘The Undateables’ – actually a sweet, endearing and wholly respectful programme – where his capacity to charm and entertain in equal measure shines forth in abundance. In a live show setting, these attributes are magnified manyfold, as Daniel capably owns the stage and connects with his rapturous audiences.

At this homecoming gig (Daniel has toured all year, since March) this rapport was palpably amplified and the fire stoked further by Daniel’s delighted revelation that he will be appearing in the ‘The Undateables’ TV Christmas special, on 21st December 2017 – cue much whooping and cheering from the audience. So, a double dose of Daniel in a single week: our collective cups runneth over! Then again, ‘tis the season for giving and a time for treats and indulgence and that’s precisely what this live show was: a festive feast.

With boundless energy, Daniel burst on to the stage as if fired from some unseen, off-stage cannon and the expectant crowd surged to meet him. This made for a highly-charged atmosphere, with crowd and band feeding off one another in some sort of sonic symbiosis. The songs came thick and fast, right from the off. Daniel impressively has a back catalogue of over a 100 songs now. Impressively, because here’s the thing – Daniel has autism spectrum disorder and is prone, in his own words, to “losing” his words. Yet he has overcome communication challenges and considerable shyness, transforming into quite the master showman behind the microphone, with full command of his eager, chanting fans.

It is a wonder and a joy to watch Daniel perform and to see audience members beaming from ear to ear, loudly professing their love for him (“I love you too, darling” came his appreciative reply, each and every time, and there were many). From the infectiously upbeat opener ‘I Love Girlfriend’, with Daniel’s accompanying Jarvis Cocker-style kicks, to the introspective, dark night of the soul song ‘Bad Feeling’, Daniel triumphantly delivers a whole range of emotions, from rapture to despair, and the audience is right there with him, in mind, body and in spirit. After all, we’ve all been there, at some point or other, and we know precisely those human experiences that Daniel so touchingly writes and sings of.

Gig highlight probably goes to the one and only cover version of the night, an unexpected and accomplished rendition of Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’, closely followed by the longed-for ‘Playboy Girls’ (enthusiastically requested by the audience from the second Daniel first appeared on stage) and the reappearance of the band in full Christmas finery (Daniel as Santa, naturally) for the encore and Daniel’s new Christmas single, ‘Everybody Needs Before Christmas’.

Full credit to Daniel’s wonderfully tight and together backing band, who make up the so-called Daniel Wakeford Experience: Katie Windsor (bass and also Daniel’s Manager), Sam Dook (guitar, keys, backing vocals) Lizzy Carey (keys, viola, backing vocals) and Steve Tovell (drums). They bring Daniel’s hooky and often 60s-sounding vibe to the fore (think The Doors meets The Monkees for songs like the rousing gig closer, ‘New York City’) and they provide the perfect framework for Daniel’s self-penned, heartfelt songs.

Credit should also go to Daniel’s unseen song-writing partner and arranger, Tom Cook, without whom one imagines the songs might never see the light of day. And light is precisely what Daniel is, amidst the darkness, for his songs clearly bring joy and hope. How appropriate that this is starting to sound like a reading from a Christmas sermon, at a time of year when thoughts turn to the promise brought by a bright, shining star in a dark night sky. Sound familiar!?

Kelly Westlake

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