Symphony Hall, Birmingham
OK, OK, forgive the poor taste and the image, clearly Nick wasn’t there, but it is quite something that such a little respected talent, at least in his lifetime, can still half fill Symphony Hall with a tribute show of this calibre to such a reception. It’s true, I wasn’t that much a fan, don’t like his voice, too Fotherington-Thomas, but the Squeeze is, hence the tickets. And then she called off sick, so I was solo. But I finally ‘got’ ND, arguably thru’ the gift of covers (see Ganglesprockets covers thread nearby) but nonetheless I did. Presented by Joe Boyd himself, in person, ridiculously youthful. At, I don’t know, 103, he makes Cliff look positively middle-aged, this brought together a seasoned band of musicians, playing the Drake canon for a number of years, with a bevy of singers, some old, some new. The band, string section, 2 guitars, double bass, piano, drums and the multi-tasking Kate St John on oboe, sax, accordion and vocals.Danny Thompson was off sick, his nominated dep being Joe Thorne, and, tho’ I wasn’t familiar, he played a blinder. Neil MacColl was the main guitarist, son of Ewan, sister of Kirsty, and no slouch as David Gray and Kathryn Williams fans well know. To balance the exquisite string arrangements of the late David Kirby, the pianist was Zoe Rahman, whose spiky jazz and latin touches brought hitherto unrealised nuances to the sound, abetted by ex-Shriekback drummer Martyn Barker. Singing we got a stellar line up of Green Gartside, Vashti Bunyan, Glen Hansard, Sams Lee and Beam, Olivia Chaney and the Rails. And a fella who wasn’t advertised and whose name escapes me, panama hat and short pony tail, nice voice, name meaning nothing then and ,clearly,, less now. (Sorry, he deserved remembering.) Green ‘Scritti Politti’ Gartside opened proceedings, his light voice well suited to the songs, looking dapper in cord suit with greying beard, unrecognisable from 80s TOTPs. Bunyan, astonishing given she too is getting on for Boyds age, looked a babe and sang with way more muscle in her voice, yet still a thing of fragility, than I expected or knew. Hansard actually sounded a spit for Drake and, shock horror, was great, I loved it and that. Sam Lee, fresh from R2 Folk Award winning, was of much stronger voice than I expected, channeling Rob C in his mystical ‘dancing’. Olivia Chaney I wasn’t familiar with, and after a shaky start, relaxed, especially in the 2nd half, leading the opener thereto from the piano. Kami T and Walbourne J, aka the Rails were as good as I know they can be, Kami ever more evocative of her mother, at least in voice. Which leaves Sam Beam, Iron and Wine. His pictures have always led me to believe him a giant, 10 feet tall and the same around the middle. So it was surprise to see him as a skinny dude, a skinny little dude, big of beard to the extent it probably weighs as much as the rest of him together. But he can sing some and was, for me, the highlight, adding twang to the proceedings when it seems to be getting rather too middle class and bien pensant . So what songs did they do? In truth, uncertain but certainly the big ones, Hazy Jane, Northern Sky, all that lot, were there and not only did I buy the 2013 version of this show on CD, I will be digging out my ‘Introduction to ND’ tomorrow, listening with ears open anew, as I will be to al the represented singers.
Thinner and richer than the usual audiences I rub up with, well heeled sexagenarians. Must beal the SSRIs.
It made me think..
I knew the songs were OK, I just didn’t realise they were great. Live music is always a better experience than recorded.