Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Orange Tree Last Night

The pub was cosy, and a warm refuge from the big chill outside. Foolish Girl was already there- that's enthusiasm for you! Stephen and Katy had just set up the PA and chairs when we got there; it was lovely to see them both again.
The bouncer was a new boy, all smart and smiles in his huge navy coat. We hoped we wouldn't cause any trouble.
After the sound checks, Stephen took to the stage; he was full of beans and treated us to a song he'd written for the primary school children he supply-teaches, called Put A Name On It. This was a simple introduction to perhaps copyright law for children who produce beautiful work, dated and titled, but without their name at the top. We sang along obediently, remembering all the times we hadn't put our names on our work.
The memories!
Much of Stephen's repertoire is sharply articulated political comment, served up on a bed of mad jazz-inflected punk. Somebody needs to be bloody doing it, and I made a mental note to try extra hard to write my political feelings into my songs- it is just so difficult to do without sounding trite. Stephen is a master at avoiding this. He has just released an album on a USB drive in matchbox which I will be reviewing in due course. Tonight he did a genius thing- he mimed to one of his own songs pretending that he was on Top of the Pops....
The waggling leg!
The finger-pointing at the sky!
The low bass note that almost ended in a dribble!
The lurch towards the PA on the table to adjust the volume!
The grab for the fiddle and the frantic effort to keep up with the pre-recorded string section!
We all roared with laughter; this was a cathartic moment, especially for those of us who live in the Smoke and have been expecting to be blown up all week.
Oh Stephen, thank you for a welcome release of tension.
I had the difficult task of following him, but I can only be myself, and thankfully the audience seemed perfectly happy to listen to my songs, and laugh at the inter-song quips. It's great to play the Telecaster again; it feels like a long-lost pal that has come back again, and it plays itself while I sing. Stephen came up to play fabulous fiddle on Sugarhill, and Martin played great guitar on Heaven Avenue.
Finally, Martin strapped on his guitar and took the audience on journey through humour, sadness and poignant observation, mixing some rare live performances of songs alongside his more regular repertoire. The audience and the artist were as one, as always at Martin's gigs. It was lovely to hear I Can See and Synergy, punctuated by ragtime and some Daintees classics including Boat to Bolivia. The cream of the crop, however, was Left Us To Burn which was met with a roar of approval. If even Essex man and woman hate the Tories, what are we doing letting them rip our future to shreds?

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