Review: Rob Clamp, Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea

Review: Rob Clamp, Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea

By Sam Wise.

Open mic nights have their stars; theoretically the deal is that anyone can turn up and play, but there are certain people who everyone knows have got a bit extra. They always get put in a good slot, they can turn up late and still make it onto the stage, and there’s a palpable excitement when they get up to play. At Roots Night at the Railway Inn in Winchester, Rob Clamp is one of these, and that’s where I met him. 

We’re all at Roots Night for different reasons, but it’s generally some version of “It’s a safe place to get up and play”. You might be trialling a new song, seeing whether there’s chemistry for a new lineup, working the kinks out of something you find very challenging, or maybe, a couple of songs every now and then is all you want out of performing. Not Rob. Rob does all of the above at home; when he gets on the stage, you can tell that he’s worked 3 times harder than the rest of us already. Rob is there honing his performance chops. He’s taking his thing from “really very good” to “perfect”. He’s a ball of energy, hunched over his guitar, one foot beating out a rhythm on a stomp board, the other providing a counterpoint with bells on his toes. Complex, stabbing acoustic guitar parts, deeply personal lyrics delivered in a powerful baritone, the man himself full of intensity, moving from lost in the song, to projecting emotion right at us. 

So, Rob was always the person in the room taking it the most seriously. It was no surprise when he launched an album; we had heard him hone these songs week after week. It should not have been a surprise when he announced that he had quit his job and was setting off on a 23 date European tour, except that for musicians, that’s the stage most of us are scared off at. Rob did what we all imagine doing, put everything else on hold, and set off to pursue his dream. And he’s had tremendous support, because not only was he the hardest working man at Roots Night, but also one of the nicest. He is always someone with a supportive word for others, positive feedback, open and accessible, and no doubt that’s helped him in doing what he’s done. He walked a bit of a tightrope over this period of very deliberate career growth; as well as putting out an album and planning a tour, he put together a band, The Ashmen, all of them fairly prominent, well respected local musicians. He was asking a lot of them, particularly because of his own work ethic and perfectionism, “Come and do a lot of work becoming a band with me, and I can’t promise you anything very much in return, particularly immediately,” and they did. 

The tour kicked off at Southampton’s Papillon bar, which was as packed as it had been for his album launch a couple of months earlier. I couldn’t be there, but the photos had plenty of faces that were familiar, and plenty that weren’t. It was clear Rob’s popularity had moved beyond his circle of friends and acquaintances, and his aim with this next leg was to extend it still further. What he couldn’t do, however, was to take his band with him. Following his European adventures on Facebook was a joy, as he took in Holland, Germany, and even the Czech Republic on his travels. Clive the van broke down in Germany, and Rob continued undaunted, and was even met with a friendly face, as one of our Roots Night colleagues surprised him by showing up in Prague. Watching all this in real time, I knew I had to be at the tour’s closing date in Portsmouth. 

Showing up early, it felt a little like a Roots Night awayday, with familiar faces dotted around the bar. Support act Megan Linford charmed us with powerful voice, dexterous guitar, and songs which she managed to turn from introspective stories into powerful life advice, even for those older than her. Check out her sweet, soulful yet folky playing. By the time The Ashmen took the stage, the place was pretty full, and it was no longer just familiar faces, at least to me. This was my first time seeing Rob front a band, and it brought out an entirely different energy in him. Ben Reid, on keyboards and lap steel guitar (and to my eyes, often in the musical director role) was a new face to me, and as well as filling out the sound, took care of continuity, moving from stinging slide licks to playing mellow keyboard beds as Rob introduced songs entirely smoothly. On drums was a familiar face, Sam Weeks, known to me as a very percussive and driving guitarist, and here bringing the same qualities to drums and banjo. On the fiddle and occasional harmonica we had Dave Elliot, and on bass, a man introduced as “Our own personal Jesus,” but to my eyes more of a Rollo from Amazon series Vikings; Ed Bentley. Rob himself moved between his familiar seated pose and a more conventional standing position, but regardless of where he was, he brought a new energy. With less to concentrate on, he’s garrulous, outgoing, smiling, and 23 shows on the road has brought him back with excellent skills at working the audience. In many ways he reminds me of Martyn Joseph, another man with powerful presence who has forged his own path in music.

If anything, The Ashmen sound as though they belong on a much bigger stage; Rob’s crowdwork makes us feel part of things, but would work just as well on several thousand people, and the band’s sound is BIG. It makes a lot of sense with Rob’s usual driving style of playing, and his songs have tremendous momentum, only amplified by Sam Weeks’ powerful drumming. They punch through a full set of the songs I have come to know and love at Roots Night, and even manage to squeeze in a couple of unscheduled extras for the encore. Rob’s lyrical themes tie very much together; family, a sense of home, loneliness, adventure, an aching for times past, and you can’t help thinking this tour will have given him plenty more content for those vibes. We end with an absolutely steamrolling version of Wind in My Hair, the whole crowd belting out the refrain “It’s cold out here alone,” a sense of camaraderie pervading us which is slightly at odds with the resonance of that lyric, and then it’s over. 

There’s clearly a lot of love in the room, and it has very much the feeling of a homecoming gig, but it gives me anticipatory feelings for what is to come. Whatever Rob Clamp does, he does it to the very best of his ability, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. The boy done good. 

Check out Rob Clamp’s upcoming activities at, and find the album Lost Soul on Spotify, but remember, smaller artists may not make an income from Spotify, so If you like what you hear, buy a ticket to a show, buy a t-shirt, put some money in the pockets of the artists you love. 

Megan Linford can be found at

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