Tucked away at the south end of Sherwood Rise, The Guitar Bar at Hotel Deux is a hidden gem of a venue. It’s a quirky space, with a large model glider hanging from the ceiling, a rocking horse perched high in one corner, and a wall-mounted snooker table, complete with cues and balls. Comfy sofas and leather banquettes make for a cosy atmosphere, which proved to be the perfect setting for Dean Friedman, making a return visit to a favourite spot.
Best known for a clutch of singles and a successful album in the late Seventies, Friedman’s public profile might have waned, but he has steered a steady, if unpredictable, course through the intervening years. Still on the hip side of sixty, his lustrous mane has silvered, lending him a distinguished air. And if his voice isn’t quite what it was in strictly technical terms, his personality and panache shone through, putting us at ease, and placing us firmly on his side.
Alternating between lyrical, somewhat jazzy piano-backed numbers and guitar-based ditties which spanned from spiky satire to tender romance, Dean displayed an impressive range as both composer and performer. You could imagine him wowing a sophisticated boho crowd in a Greenwich Village cabaret bar, whose patrons would lap up his nods to Porter, Sondheim and Lehrer. Indeed, just like Lehrer, he even has his own funny song about S&M.
As for that unpredictability, it’s a rare artist indeed who can boast of being the subject of a tribute from Half Man Half Biscuit (we were treated to his hilarious answer song), before reminding us that he spent five years providing the soundtrack to Boon (a sound Nottingham connection, which always helps), and then recounting the drawn-out saga of McDonalds Girl: once banned by the BBC, more recently adopted by the burger chain for an advertising campaign.
A warm glow enveloped the room, as we savoured an all too rare intimacy between artist and audience. To aid Dean through his biggest British hit, a duet called Lucky Stars, we took it upon ourselves to furnish the missing female vocals. Most of us could just about remember the words, and so we sang along, softly and fondly, as if recalling a long-forgotten love affair. Sometimes, its small, shared moments like these which feel the most special. Let’s hope that Dean Friedman keeps us on his circuit for many years to come.