St. George’s in Bristol
I didn’t really know what I’d make of this before I went. Ostensibly this is Bridget’s tour, and she’s asked Michael to come along too. Back in the day I was a mild Bridget fan; I had a couple of the Dandelion albums, and I bought the boxed-set of them that came out on CD a while back, but I confess I was there to see Mr. Chapman first and foremost. Ever since a girlfriend’s older brother, one of the nicest, coolest dudes I’ve ever known, played me Fully Qualified Survivor one long Sunday afternoon, I’ve been a massive fan of his really unique talent. To my mind no one else can take a single acoustic guitar and conjure up relatively long instrumental pieces of such detail and constantly unfolding interest in what is essentially ‘just’ the finger-picking mode and yet make soundscapes that create mental pictures as if an entire orchestra was at work. And no one else has the same so-laid-back-he’s-horizontal Yorkshire mumble or such intriguing songs, not to mention his world class wry, dry, laconic wit. I needn’t have worried. In the event Michael delivered a shortish set of great quality, and more’s the point, he entertained us with his talent, he didn’t display it for praise. Bridget surprised me; sure there are songs with a social conscience that feel and sound as if they came from that late 60s, early 70s bohemian explosion in which she was a player, sure there’s the open tuned Joni echo, but there’s also her voice; astonishingly and unmistakeably still uniquely hers, strong and true. Possibly my favourite moment of hers was a rather lovely cover of Just Like A Woman, heartfelt and gentle with the original’s paternal sneer turned on its head. Neither artist really needed a microphone; St. George’s having a great acoustic, and the sound team are unfailingly good. The sound for the evening was beautifully judged.
Disappointingly thin on the ground. A word with a steward at half time revealed that they had only sold around 170 tickets. I’d anticipated a sell-out, and deliberately bought my third row seats early on, but then I’m of a certain age, and Bridget and Michael are amongst those with whom I grew up; obviously plenty of punters have no clue who they are, or don’t give a hoot one way or the other. There were many of St. George’s regulars in the room, who know that the venue is like a record label; if they put the gig on it’s almost certainly worth your time attending. There were also plenty of greylagged folkies there to soak up the chance to see two of the stalwart talents of our times. A couple of younger Bristolian hipsters sat behind me and initially whispered ‘check out how much I know about this artist’ witterings to each other during the songs. A withering peripheral glance and a proprietorial elbow perched on the back of my chair, as if about to turn around and give both verbal barrels soon put an end to that, and they shut up for the rest of the gig; hopefully too entranced to mutter anymore.
It made me think..
There is a whole generation of artists from that period who are probably now in their last 5 to 10 years of touring, and we should try to catch them while we can. We won’t see their like again, only their imitators.