Archive for the 'music' Category

The Atkin-James song book

12 February 2017


I have been a fan of the songs of Pete Atkin and Clive James for all my adult life, ever since a friend turned up at a flat I was living in in my late teens with a copy of their second LP, Driving Through Mythical America. It was obvious at first hearing that these were songs of a different order, from the very first song, ‘Sunlight Gate’, a lyric about the Vietnam war which never names it and manages, at the same time, to be timeless. And that’s not even one of the best songs on the record, by some way.

So I’ve been looking forward to reading Ian Shircore’s book, Loose Canon on their lifelong collaboration. I wasn’t disappointed.

These lyrics aren’t a sideline for James: while I tend to think that his poetry is over-rated, the constraints of the song lyric seem to suit him well. As he said on the John Peel Show in 2000, “This is the work I’m known least for, but which is closest to my heart.” Atkin’s arrangements, which are given good consideration here, are often rich and subtle.
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Big band Christmas

30 December 2016

Guy Barker Big Band Christmas SpecialThe trumpeter Guy Barker must be well on his way to becoming a national treasure, at least in those parts of Britain where jazz trmpeters are treasured.

He’s played with everybody, of course, from Frank Sinatra to Georgie Fame to Sting, but he’s also a composer and an arranger. I’m particularly fond of his Soundtrack CD (2001) of themes for a couple of imaginaryfilms. I’ve seen him play a couple of times in the last year or so, taking the Bix Beiderbecke role in the Jazz Repertory Compay’s reconstruction of the Paul Whiteman Orchestra at Cadogan Hall, and with Mike Westbrook.

But the prompt for this post is his Big Band Christmas show at the Royal Albert Hall in mid-December. When I say, ‘big band’, I mean big: some 40 players on stage, including two drummers, two pianists, two banks of brass and an 18-piece string section. Barker was mostly conducting rather than playing, and the repertoire had a Christmas feel to it. A selection of vocal guests, including Kurt Elling, Wayne Peters and Vanessa Haynes, the vocal group Accent, and the saxophonist Soweto Kinch, appeared from the wings. The singer and broadcaster Clare Teal co-hosted with Barker and also sang some numbers.

guy-and-soweto-kinchOf course, there were some standouts. A fabulous version of ‘All The Way’, more or less a duet between Kurt Elling and the double bass; the recreation of Charlie Parker and Kenny Dorham’s bebop version of ‘White Christmas’, originally performed live on Christmas Day 1948, with Kinch taking Parker’s part and Barker playing Dorham; and Vanessa Haynes lit the place up every time she came onstage, notably on a version of ‘Heaven Help Us All’.

But mostly, the event was about the power of a big band being given permission to swing, in that way that jazz musicians can. You wonder how much time a band of that size has managed to find to rehearse, but the arrangements wer rich and the playing tight. And the musicians also seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Just before the end, just before they tipped some theatrical snowflakes on to the stage from the bridge for the final number, Clare Teal asked if we’d like the show to become an annual event. By then it already felt like a Christmas institution.

Images: Andy Paradise/Royal Albert Hall.

‘Spoken not read’

14 December 2016
bob_dylan_by_kylelegates-d4odgmh

Bob Dylan, by Kyle Legates


There’s no argument here that Dylan deserved to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, not least because he changed our expectations of the weight that a song could carry. I admired the way in which, in his acceptance speech (read out in Stockholm by the US Ambassador) he both managed to compare himself to Shakespeare while at the same time using this as a shield to deflect the critics who had suggested that the Literature prize should not go to a songwriter.

Near the beginning of the speech, Dylan writes:

I was out on the road when I received this surprising news, and it took me more than a few minutes to properly process it. I began to think about William Shakespeare, the great literary figure. I would reckon he thought of himself as a dramatist. The thought that he was writing literature couldn’t have entered his head. His words were written for the stage. Meant to be spoken not read. When he was writing Hamlet, I’m sure he was thinking about a lot of different things: “Who’re the right actors for these roles?” “How should this be staged?” “Do I really want to set this in Denmark?” His creative vision and ambitions were no doubt at the forefront of his mind, but there were also more mundane matters to consider and deal with. “Is the financing in place?” “Are there enough good seats for my patrons?” “Where am I going to get a human skull?” I would bet that the farthest thing from Shakespeare’s mind was the question “Is this literature?”

Of course, this is also a reminder that several playwrights have also won the Nobel Prize since it was created in 1901–Pinter, Dario Fo, Beckett, Pirandello, Eugene O’Neill, Shaw–and that they have also wrestled with the same problems of words-as-performance, without attracting the same opprobrium.

And then, in the speech, he goes off on a little tour, talking about his personal history, the slow way in which confidence and ambition grows with success as a performer, nodding in a clever but flattering way in the direction of the Nobel Committee, before bringing it back to Shakespeare again:

But, like Shakespeare, I too am often occupied with the pursuit of my creative endeavors and dealing with all aspects of life’s mundane matters. “Who are the best musicians for these songs?” “Am I recording in the right studio?” “Is this song in the right key?” Some things never change, even in 400 years.

Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, “Are my songs literature?”

So, I do thank the Swedish Academy, both for taking the time to consider that very question, and, ultimately, for providing such a wonderful answer.

I was lucky enough, years ago, to hear Christopher Ricks do one of his lectures where he dissected several songs; the masterly construction of ‘Boots of Spanish Leather‘, with its alternate male and female rhymes (“made of silver or of golden“), and of ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll‘ (“now is the time for your tears”), contrasted with the thinner material that makes up ‘One Too Many Mornings‘. Ricks became a bit of lightning rod for other critics, partly because he insisted on saying that Dylan was better than Keats, which was a red rag to sections of the English literati. I don’t think that argument was worth spending time on, even then, but the scholarship in his lecture, and much more, eventually found its way into a long critical appraisal of Dylan’s language and lyrics, a quarter of a century later. As Thomas Jones notes in his review in LRB, Ricks’ says of ‘Hattie Carroll’ that ‘Here is a song that could not be written better.’

Ricks, who was an early champion of Dylan’s literary quality, has been vindicated by the Nobel Commitee’s answer to Dylan’s unasked question, and he was in the pages of the Irish Times (scroll down) after the announcement was made.

Some reminders, since one of Dylan’s powers is that of a great reminder.

First, that every artist, insofar as he or she is great as well as original, has had the task of creating the taste by which the art is to be enjoyed (Wordsworth’s conviction). Second, that the art of song is a triple art, a true compound. And it doesn’t make sense to ask which element of a compound is more “important”: the voice, or the music, or the words? (Which is more important in water, the oxygen or the hydrogen?)

But in some ways Roddy Doyle catches the sentiment and the spirit better in the same Irish Times feature:

-I remember when me brother brought home Highway 61 Revisited, when it came ou’, like. Now, I love me music – always did. But, like, ‘She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah’. I mean, there wasn’t much in the lyrics of anny o’ the songs back then. An’ then I heard, ‘They’re paintin’ postcards of the hangin’, they’re paintin’ the passports brown.’ It was amazin’. The start of my life, nearly. Even me da stopped complainin’ about the noise.

The image of Bob Dylan at the top of this post is by Kyle Legates. It is used here, with thanks, under a Creative Commons licence.

 

Toussaint’s American songbook

3 December 2016

  
A colleague was visiting New Orleans for the first time, and for the second time in a week I found myself extolling the virtues of Allen Toussaint, who was the beating heart of much New Orleans music until his death last year. I was lucky enough to see him play solo at Ronnie Scott’s shortly before he died. He had [turned to performing] relatively late in life, after losing much of what he owned in Hurricane Katrina, after years in the studio as a writer and a producer.

After Katrina, he co-wrote a record with Elvis Costello and toured with him.

Long before the collaboration with Elvis Costello, he had worked with everyone who was anyone in the New Orleans scene, from the Neville Brothers to Lee Dorsey to Betty Harris, and one of the reasons for this was that he had a wide range as a song writer, from an affectionate tongue-in-cheek song such as Fortune Teller, to danceable R and B such as Ride Your Pony or Working in the Coalmine, to a political song such as Freedom for the Stallion.

He learned from Professor Longhair, whose distinctive piano style had lit up the Crescent City in the 1960s, but the reason he got his first break, as a teenager, was that he was a fine technical player who was able to imitate the piano style of Fats Domino. At a time when Fats was on the road a lot, and most recording was done two-track, he’d play the piano part in the studio in New Orleans, and the tape would be sent to wherever Fats Domino was touring so he could add his inimitable vocal.

It happens that there was a final record in the works when he died, released earlier this year and which I stumbled across a few weeks ago. 

American Tunes (Nonesuch Records) is produced by Joe Henry, which is usually a mark of quality. The songs are played solo or with some fine collaborators, including Bill Frisell and Van Dyke Parks. The title is well-chosen: this an American songbook, but inflected with a New Orleans sensibility. As well as his own songs, he plays songs by Professor Longhair, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Billy Strayhorn and Fats Waller, as well as the (almost) title track by Paul Simon.

As Joe Henry says in the sleevenotes, written after Toussaint died, 

Allen was a quiet radical, musically speaking, and a prince of sublime humility, national royalty, if this troubled country has ever known any such thing… American Tunes is visceral and earthy. The repertoire spans the structural foundation of all that we understand to be American music… Today, in the dim light of his untimely departure, it sounds like the promise made good on all the work he might still undertake.

Five to look up on youtube:

Southern Nights: the title track of best known full length record as a performer.

With Elvis Costello.

Get Out of My Life Woman, his 1968 single.

On Your Way Down, covered by Little Feat.

Toussaint plays Lipstick Traces, which gave its name to Greil Marcus’ book.

If you want to know more there’s a long interview on Quietus, done shortly before he died, which explores pretty much his whole carrer. Richard Williams’ post on The Blue Moment blog after Toussaint’s death is, as ever, succinct but rich.

 

The Liberation Music Orchestra in London

26 November 2016

Obviously the Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra isn’t quite the same without Charlie Haden, who died two years ago. But equally, as Alan Shipton of Radio 3 noted before the start of their concert at Cadogan Hall last weekend, right now we need it more than ever.

The Orchestra was created in 1969, at the height of the protests against the Vietnam War, as a vehicle for Haden’s politics and music, and has toured and recorded off and on ever since, notably in the 2000s as a protest against the invasion of Iraq. The current band, under the leadership of Haden’s long-term collaborator Carla Bley, has just released a record on ecological themes, Time | Life, which was a work in progress when Haden died. The concert included material from this and from their 2004 recording Not In Our Name.

I love big bands, and the Liberation Music Orchestra is a big band: bass, drums, guitar, tuba, French horn, trombone, two trumpets, alto sax and two tenor saxes. Most of the musicians have been playing with the Orchestra for years. And then there’s the elfin figure of Bley, now 80, perched at the piano, standing from time to time to bring a song to a tidy close, or transition into a new one.

They are Carla Bley’s arrangements—Haden’s wife, Ruth Cameron, who introduced the band, said that Charlie could never imagine anyone else arranging the Liberation Music Orchestra’s work—and she has an unmatched ear for the timbres and textures of the jazz orchestra, in the same league as Gil Evans.

Some of the material on Time | Life goes back to the ’60s—Haden’s Song for the Whales and the Bley composition, Silent Spring, a response to Rachel Carson’s path-breaking polemic, both of which were part of the set at Cadogan Hall. There’s also a fine version of Miles’ Blue in Green, which the band opened with.

It wasn’t just me who found the material from Not In Our Name the most compelling on the night, with the scars of the recent Presidential election still fresh (Richard Williams’ review is here). The title track shares with Mingus’ Fables of Faubus the notion that protest should have a spring in its step and a smile on its face. Bley’s arrangement of Amazing Grace restores the simple power of the original. And the high point of the evening, without doubt, was the long medley of America The Beautiful/Life Every Heart And Sing/Skies of America, with drummer Matt Wilson shifting into a military mode in a long solo before the band returned to cacophonous discord. If it was designed to convey the idea that America has lost its way, it worked.

The band: Carla Bley, piano, conductor; Tony Malaby, tenor saxophone; Chris Cheek, tenor saxophone; Loren Stillman, alto saxophone, Michael Rodriguez, trumpet; Seneca Black, trumpet; Vincent Chancey, French horn; Marshall Gilkes, trombone; Earl McIntyre, tuba; Steve Cardenas, guitar; Darek Oles, bass; Matt Wilson, drums.

The concert was recorded for transmission on Radio 3 during December. 

Reflecting on Alan Stivell

20 November 2016

 

I stumbled across Alan Stivell’s first record while throwing out a bunch of tape cassettes recently. It was called Reflections in England (Reflets in France) when it was released there in 1970, and I’ve been playing it, along with his other early records a lot in the last few weeks as a reult. It reminds me that in bringing Breton music into the mainstream, or at least to the edge of the mainstream, he was maybe the first “world musician” in the days before the category of “world music” had been created. He broke through into the sensibilities of rock and blues fans like me, at least in the UK, long before the African insurgency in the late-70s, and even before Island records launched Bob Marley into the British market and drove reggae from Jamaica to the mainstream.

When you listen to both Reflets and its successor, Renaissance of the Celtic Harp, widely regarded as a masterpiece, you can see why. It has big sweeping melodies and rich arrangements. Perhaps more importantly, it also manages to sound both modern and ancient at the same time, both of the world and of the place, as if the spirit of Marshall McLuhan is running through the standing stones.

In fact, I think Stivell can be placed in a wider context, with those musicians in almost every Western culture who in the ’60s and ’70s honoured their traditional musics while introducing new arrangements and (usually) electric instruments into the mix. I’m thinking, for example, of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span in the UK, for example, or The Band in north America, or Planxty, and later Moving Hearts, in Ireland.

Reflets seems to be out of print now, along with his first live recording, Live at l’Olympia. The full recording of l’Olympia is on Youtube at the moment, as are all of the individual tracks of Reflets, which I have reconstructed as a Youtube playlist.

One of the things I liked about Reflets, but which surprised me at the time, was that it included among the Breton folk repertoire an English song, Sally Free and Easy, collected by Cyril Tawney. Liked, because I knew it already in a version by Pentangle; surprised because I expected a man who was immersed in Breton culture not to mix up his performance with English folk songs.

But it seems that Stivell was a fan of English folk; there are more English songs on Live at l’Olympia, including The Foggy Foggy Dew. It’s a reminder that people like Stivell, who were musical pioneers, are always listening.

 

 

In praise of the accordion

11 April 2016

1500px-Accordion_button_mechanism.svgWatching the Donegal band Altan last night I got interested in watching the accordion player Martin Tourish, who’s recently joined the group. The accordion is a complex instrument; the player has to finger the melody, create the rhythm on the chromatic keys, and also not to forget to keep pumping to push the air through the instrument.

What’s odd about the accordion, and other forms such as the concertina, is that it’s a relatively recent instrument—it was invented in Germany in the 1820s—and that makes sense, since it is sufficiently complex that it’s evidently a product of the industrial age. But it spread rapidly, and forms of it are found throughout Europe’s folk music cultures, and beyond to Brazil and North America as well. It’s impossible to imagine Cajun music without the accordion, for example.

My guess is that the reason for its instant success was that in the days before amplification (or electricity, come to that), its sound could fill a room pretty much on its own, at the cafe, bar, or dancehall. And maybe that’s still the case: a New York Times article on the instrument a few years ago quoted a younger player who’d swapped piano for accordion because ‘“it’s pretty hard to carry a piano and travel,” adding that pianos are often out of tune at bars and clubs.’

Perhaps because of its role as a pre-electric instrucment, it’s still strongly associated with folk and ‘world musics’. There are a few exceptions, but it’s never really crossed into the pop and rock mainstream. The New York Times quotes some bands that have used the sound, and it pretty much proves the point. It is a quirkly list: They Might Be Giants, Arcade Fire, the Decemberists, Beirut, Calexico, Green Day, Gogol Bordello, Flogging Molly, the Pogues. Springsteen uses it in his lineup when he’s showing off his roots, mostly, as far as I can tell, on songs made famous by Pete Seeger, but also on the much earlier love song to Sandy.

Anyway, Martin Tourish can be seen playing on youtube at a session in Donegal with the guitar player Antoin Bracken. I like this because the first of the two tracks here is slower, and reflects the range in tone you can get from the instrument.

And this calls to mind some of my other accordion favourites.

The first is the English folk classic Morris On, in which a star-studded band plays versions of English folk songs as they might have been heard before Victorian collectors cleaned them up (“Cuckoo’s Nest” has nothing to do with bird-watching.) John Kirkpatrick is the accordion player here, driving along the electric band. Richard Thompson, Ashley Hutchings, Barry Dransfield and Dave Mattacks are also in the line-up, and Shirley Collins makes a guest appearance.

And it’s impossible to write about accordion players without mentioning Kepa Junkera, one of the towering figures of modern Basque music, who pays a trikitixa, or Basque diatonic accordion, displayed to great effect on records such as Bilbao 00:00h and Herria.

It happens that it was Kepa Junkera’s birthday at the weeken, and so here are a couple of tracks of his from youtube.

And the second is from his recent record, Trikitixaren historia txiki bat, which translates as “a little history of trikitixa”. This a fine video: as well as having some excellent accordion playing on it, it also reflects the way in which the Basque music culture is a living part of the region’s identity, certainly in the provinces located in Spain. 

 

“We did him in up country”

28 March 2016

Since it’s Easter Monday, it seems appropriate to share the lyric of “Search and Destroy“, words by Clive James, music by Pete Atkin, in which the Easter story is reimagined as a laconic report about the end of a successful 20th century counter-terrorist operation.

James, who is an outstanding lyric writer, has written better songs than this, but there’s something to admire about the way the final stanza locates the story conclusively and then punctures it decisively:

The faithful talk some wishful-thinking cock/ About a spook who rolls away the rock/
At which point golden boy walks out alive/ We’re bumping them all off as they arrive.

One can imagine the likes of Brigadier Richard Clutterbuck being delighted about the way things turned out here.

Search and destroy

I'm glad to say we're mopping up up here
I'm sending you today's report in clear
Security's no problem now at all
You just pick up the phone and make a call

     We should have done all this back at the beginning
     And never let the clowns think they were winning

We took a month to crack their second man
But when he talked the strudel hit the fan
He named eleven leaders who we shot
And then the top guy's girl who we've still got
The chick was tough and held out for a week
But spilled a bibful when we made her speak
We picked his mother up and worked on her
He came in on his own and there you were

     We should have nailed the first ones when we found them
     Before all the mystique built up around them

We never gave the local heat a chance
To get him on their own and make him dance
We did him in up-country, bombed the cave
And made the whole damn mountainside his grave
The faithful talk some wishful-thinking cock
About a spook who rolls away the rock
At which point golden boy walks out alive
We're bumping them all off as they arrive

     And that winds up this dreary exhibition
     A total waste of time and ammunition

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‘The Cavalry incident’

Of course, Clive James is in good company here. The radical journalist Claud Cockburn recalled in his memoir I Claud rewriting the Easter story in the early 1930s as a parody of The Times’ Berlin reporter Pugge, who tended to see the streetfighting going on in Berlin in somewhat simple terms. This is how Cockburn described it in the book:

It was a level-headed estimate studded with well-tried Times’ phrases. ‘Small disposition here,’ cabled this correspondent, ‘attach undue importance protests raised certain quarters result recent arrest and trial leading revolutionary agitator followed by what is known locally as “the Cavalry incident”.’ The despatch was obviously based on an off-the-record interview with Pontius Pilate. It took the view that, so far from acting harshly, the Government had behaved with what in some quarters was criticized as ‘undue clemency’. It pointed out that firm Government action had definitely eliminated this small band of extremists, whose doctines might otherwise have represented a serious threat for the future.

The youtube clip at the top shows Atkin—who is currently, thankfully, recovering after being hit by a bus in Bristol—performing “Search and Destory” solo in Sheffield.

The recorded version is on the Pete Atkin reord Lakeside Sessions Vol. 2, which is available as a CD online or via iTunes. Or if you want to play it yourself, the chords are here.

Listening to McCartney

27 March 2016

tumblr_lo51njmzzz1qcf4dzo1_500

When the Beatles’ producer, George Martin, died recently, Richard Williams posted a note on his blog about the recording of ‘A Day In The Life’, based on a long interview he’d done with Martin for Melody Maker in the early ’70s. Martin explained:

They decided that they were going to put a lot of just rhythm in it, and add something later. So I said, “Let’s make it a definite number of bars, let’s have 24 bars of just rhythm in two places, and we’ll decide what to do with them later.” … When they’d done it, I asked them what they were going to do with those bloody great gaps. Paul said he wanted a symphony orchestra, and I said, “Don’t be silly, Paul — it’s all right having 98 men, but you can do it just as well with a smaller amount.” He said, “I want a symphony orchestra to freak out.”

After some toing and froing, Martin booked a 41-piece orchestra, and wrote some structure for the orchestra, but also got them, in effect, to improvise around a long glissando. There’s more detail in William’s post, but the video on Vevo gives some sense of the atmosphere on the recording.

Anyway, youtube being youtube, that led me into a couple of more recent videos with Paul McCartney which were useful reminders that he has always been smart and curious, and despite his fame and wealth remains a human being.

Writing

There’s a long interview at Rollins College in the US with the American poet, and former US Laureate – Billy Collins in which he talks among many other things  about writing the three hundred songs he co-wrote with Lennon, sitting down for writing sessions of three hours or so, sessions which always produced a song. In the interview he talks about one session where they got stuck on a lyric involving “golden rings.”. The clip starts at the right place in the interview.

One of the students has a question about what it takes to succeed in songwriting, and McCartney talks about doing a lot of writing—getting better through practice, which is fair enough. But several of the stories he tells are actually about keeping your ears open, about the importance of listening.

Presley

The other video was a one man show he did in front of an invited audience at Abbey Road Studios, where he displays a gift for telling stories, even some comic timing.

This moment, where he does a solo version of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ on the standup bass played by Presley’s first bassist, Bill Black, has some magic in it. Again, it starts at about the right place:

Beatle

And actually, it’s worth letting it run on a bit for this reason. After McCartney plays ‘Heartbreak Hotel” he wonders over to a Mellotron and does a nightclub style number, before talking about what the Beatles did with the Mellotron. He plays a few bars of the start of a fifty-year old song and the audience breaks into the applause of recognition.  (I’m not going to spoil the effect by saying which song it is.)

Billy Collins – who’s about the same age as McCartney – starts his interview by saying, “You were a Beatle weren’t you? That’s amazing to me,” and the students in the audience clap. Oddly, it’s only when the question gets put in that “Martian” way that you realise what a huge cultural space the Beatles still fill, half a century on.

Ryley Walker at Bush Hall

5 March 2016

ryley-walker-and-danny-thompson-at-bush-hall-london-206x266 I’ve been finding writing a bit slow going recently, so thought I’d try some tricks to get going again. Trick 1: write a list. So here’s a list of some things I noticed at Ryley Walker‘s gig at Bush Hall this week, his last appearance before flying back to the States. The concert had been added to his schedule after an early gig at Bush Hall sold out.

The two support acts felt like they were from a timewarp. The Hummingbirds had been cryogenically frozen in early 1964 and recently reheated. Like listening to the Merseybeats: very nice, but why. Meg Baird, singing solo, with soprano voice and good technical guitar, was more late 60s, think Joni Mitchell or Vashti Bunyan. I kind of wish she’d made more of her voice by singing something traditional, like Barbara Allen.

Ryley Walker, on the other hand, has a pretty distinctive sound, with declamatory voice and vocals over full jazz/blues infected guitar. Earlier in his career he’d obviously been influenced by John Martyn, but I think he’s moving away from that now. There were times when I heard some sense of mid-period Van Morrison in there.

Danny Thompson, the fabulous British bass player, was supposed to be accompanying Ryley, but was ill. He’s of an age when you worry about this, since several of his collaborators have died in the past few years: Bert Jansch, John Martyn, John Renbourn. Get well soon.

Walker’s technically a good guitarist. He’s obviously done his 10,000 hours, and he gets a rich sound from his 12-string guitar, even when he has to play solo at short notice

He also has an engaging manner onstage (and in interview). He tells stories, he thanks the audience, he talks about what he’s doing. When first tuning up he made a joke about the free jazz guitarist Derek Bailey. (“This is just me tuning up, it’s not my Derek Bailey cover.”) I wondered how many 26-year olds from Illinois, even if they were guitar players, would know who Derek Bailey was. Anyway, he thanks the audience for turning out and treats them like long-lost friends at the same time. Towards the end of his set, he tod us he was about to play his last song, meaning, of course, the last one before the encore. “Then I’ll have a piss and a beer and play a couple more,” he said: he knows that we know that he knows.

Meg Baird, in contrast, said almost nothing to the audience, clearly wanting her music to speak for itself. When she did speak towards the end of her set, she said she found it hard to speak about her songs, but garbled it, kind of proving her point. But one consequence was that while she was re-tuning in the middle of the set she lost the audience. The Hummingbirds, on the other hand, got chattier and chattier as the set went on. On one song they got so animated about the story of how it came to be written (or not) they almost forgot to play the song.