Kitchen Garden Cafe, Kings Heath, Birmingham
Back again at this fabulous tiny venue, to hear alumnus of them both, MWK sing the songs of Jackie Leven and of Townes Van Zandt, accompanied by Jackie Leven sidesman, Mike Cosgrave, on keyboards, accordion and 2nd (acoustic) guitar. The 2nd of only 2 dates, this was tribute banding at its best. The first half was dedicated to Jackie, with many an anecdote affectionately outlining his ability to exasperate and baffle, littered with a selection of songs from across his canon. Now, I consider myself a bit of a fan, yet the first couple of songs were new to my ears, albeit unmistakenly Leven, with the audience, sunday polite, a little non-plussed. However, kicking into History of Rain, replete with added doo-woppery, and all relaxed a little. The Wanderer and Ireland for Losers also appeared, reminding the lyrical depth of his recurring themes. MWK sings in a style similar to big Jackie, but less resonance, his anecdotes, to be fair, not a patch on the man himself, as if anyone could be. Cosgrave added elegaic electric piano, glorious swathes of synth chordery and rousing squeezebox. I found a tear swelling for the big man on occasion, but the songs were not necessarily the ones I had hoped for, but with a gigantic repertoire and unusual tuning to master, MWK insisted on no requests, citing it was hard enough remembering the words for the ones he did do. “Why, Jackie never could”, quipped Cosgrave. The final song in this sequence was a song written to commemorate the funeral of Townes, providing a handy segue between the two halves, even if one of the weaker songs this night.
The short break and it was all Townes tales, again portraying the man as a hopeless and delightful companion to all he countered. It seemed that the performers were on surer ground, or maybe it is just that the songs, delightfully mournful and morose, are easier to play. Again, a voice similar to his intended, less world weary maybe, but suited very well, and many of the now near standards poured forth, Marie, the Tower Song, Waitin Around to Die being my favourites. Indeed, although a lesser fan of the artist, I found myself enjoying this 2nd half better. Cosgrave’s touches, especially on Tower song added rather than detracted, no mean feat given the usual sparer starkness of the originals. Finally, the cheerful TVZ, or, at least, one of two, White Freight Liner and it was 10.15, near enough home time for me.
As stated, respectful, polite and, as my significant said, ever so Afterword. (Indeed, given the presence of both Steve T and Baron Harkonnen, and possibly other lurkers, not far wrong there.) Maybe a saturday might have been a tad rowdier? Who knows.
It made me think..
This is proper music, played for the love of it.
Oh, and, if I were Mike Cosgrave, given both Jackie and Townes had a history of working with MWK, I’d be checking out his life insurance……..