St Georges Bristol
I bought the album last year, and having fallen under its spell, I bought two prime tickets for the gig on the day the tour was announced. My companion for the evening had never heard the album, or anything from it. It was my treat this time; he was the innocent victim, with no preconceived ideas at all about what he was about to see and hear.
The album in question is Primrose Green, and the artists we were about to experience are Ryley Walker and Danny Thompson. That’s Danny F*cking Thompson, as Ryley puts it.
I’d listened to the album again yesterday in the car, and hoped that what I would hear that evening would be more than a recreation of the work, fine though it is as it stands. For listeners of a certain age and persuasion, it inevitably evokes echoes of influence as Ryley channels Jansch, Martyn and Buckley in his own unique style. What I had hoped to hear in the evening was a development from that, a blooming, an exploration, a progression if you will; something new yet rooted in the exciting possibilities revealed by the album. I wanted jaw-dropping. I wanted brilliant.
I got it. Reader, we had our socks blown off. I was not disappointed. They were astonishingly good.
There is nothing, nothing at all, like hearing this guy sing and play live. If you have heard the album – and if you haven’t I urge you to do so – you will be amazed to witness the live performance of those same songs – and loads of new ones! The new material is powerful and splendidly different, and seems to be growing organically from their collaboration. I think the first four or five last night were all brand new – I lost track while grinning broadly and losing myself in them.
Front row seats, a couple of yards from the edge of the stage, and right in front of our eyes the room was lit up by a man possessed of great presence, completely ON the moment, IN the song and flying, a soul on fire, a force of nature lost in the instance and focussed upon nothing except the performance. This guy can be scarily intense. And what a pairing, what a perfectly conceived match the two of them are; I hope upon hope that there is a live album from this tour; it will be an absolute and utter belter. Danny Thompson is the rock that anchors the music and delights the ear while Ryley flies and conjures. That bass. That voice. That guitar. Great raga-like streams of invention and then a return to exquisite chording, explosive swoops and yells, shouts even, and then that lyrical poise again. There are words here, well chosen ones, images and feelings suggested and scattered across the soundscapes, flurries of ideas snap into focus and evaporate away, and then when the song subsides, there is always THAT bass, perfectly at home when the last note pulses out and slowly fades. They grin at each other as the song ends.
These guys are having a complete ball, and I urge you to catch them on this tour; it was the best gig, it was stunning, just stunning.
Afterworders by the Audi load. Kids and freaks, hipsters and their grandparents, an encouragingly wide spectrum. No civilians. Perfectly behaved – well they would be, they were transfixed.
It made me think..
It’s rare to witness artists of this calibre; once or twice a year you might be lucky enough to stumble across a performance this powerful. One day like this a year will suit me fine, indeed. Marvellous.