Review: Charlie Simpson, Ipswich Corn Exchange, March 21

Charlie Simpson’s transformation from teen pop star to credible rock frontman was impressive enough – but his latest incarnation as solo singer-songwriter could be where his long-term future lies, if last night’s evidence is anything to go by.

Promoting his top five solo debut album, Young Pilgrim, Simpson began his latest UK tour on home territory at the Ipswich Corn Exchange and turned in an accomplished set.

The 26-year-old from Woodbridge has been in the business for more than 10 years – going back to his chart-topping days in pop sensations Busted – and it’s obvious that Simpson’s longevity is down to his passion and feel for his music, plus a determination to succeed on his own terms.

In contrast to the frenetic riffing of Fightstar, the band in which he restyled his image, Simpson’s solo work is a more measured affair, with greater attention to melody and harmony and plenty of acoustic guitar.

He is a towering and assured frontman, at ease with a crowd that was last night bolstered by a throng of family and friends.

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Backed by a tight and fluid band, giving the songs a harder edge than on record, Simpson ran through the majority of Young Pilgrim, including the singles Parachutes, Down Down Down and upcoming release Farmer and his Gun, plus a Jackson Browne cover which he dedicated to his parents.

It is no longer utter hysteria when Charlie Simpson takes to the stage. His audience have grown up, although he can still raise enough screaming for one man.

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But if there’s anything that the newly solo star commands and deserves these days, it’s huge respect.

Jonathan Barnes

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