Wassermusik Festival, Berlin
This was the last concert of the 20 gig-marathon Wassermusik Festival, called “Goodbye UK – and thank you for the music”, held on the roof of the House of World Cultures within spitting distance of Chancellor Merkel’s office. And anyone expecting some sort of “I’m still relevant so here’s my new album” from Green Gartside was in for a big surprise.
He came on stage with three musicians, and launched straight into a note-perfect version of “The Sweetest Girl”, helium vocals and Robert Wyatt organ intact. Fantastic. And what we got was a brilliant set of his signature tunes, performed in their original arrangements, and introduced wittily by the great man with (his own words:) “name-dropping bla-bla” – before playing “Asylums In Jerusalem” he gave us a detailed summary of a Nitzsche essay, as you do. Hell, he even played “Skank Bloc Bologna”, did some convincing East Coast rapping on more recent tunes, and even played some new songs. One of the highlights was a rendition of Robert Wyatt’s arrangement of “At Last I Am Free”, another was his guitar playing – whether skanking merrily away on the reggae tunes, imitating Miles’ trumpet solo with noisy Neil Young chords, or playing an epic guitar solo that would do Steven Wilson proud. And they played “Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)” of course.
Lots of ex-pats, lots of hardcore fans. During the instrumental break in “The Word Girl” half of the audience sang – in time, and in the right key – the backing vocals (“Flesh and blood…”), which obviously came as a big surprise to Mr. Gartside.
It made me think..
It was great to see a band of four guys playing these songs, and it showed that those “big” 80s arrangements in essence come down to a few basic parts. Just the drummer switching from acoustic drums to a couple of drum pads made all the difference – you suddenly had the sound of the 12″ version of “Perfect Way”.