Sunday, 13 March 2011
Maybe you were there.
If you were, you will know that these two gigs (November 25 & 26th 2004) were very special for me, and marked the start of my traditional two nights at King Tut's, in Glasgow, which if it's appropriate or possible, we always try and work into a tour schedule. Every band needs their Stone Pony.
There's something special about that venue. A back room in a pub basically, but the sort of venue where bands cut their performing teeth before going on to bigger, more celebrated venues. Well, some of the bands go on to bigger things.
I think I opened at Tut's for a band called It's Jo and Danny, sometime in 2000. Being an opening act is always interesting. You have a limited time to make an impact, to a room half-full of people who are all waiting for the main act to come on.
But at that first show, on what was my first real tour, some sort of connection was made. Not only was I starting to establish what I wanted to convey as a performer, but I was beginning to realise that I wanted more from the usual band/audience relationship.
I wanted what I'd experienced at the favourite shows I'd been to over the years. I wanted to feel, and to let others feel, that we are all part of something, some unique experience, available for only that night, in that venue.
You'll have to excuse the outbreak of luvviedom... I still think (even at my age) that live music, live entertainment of all varieties, produces the most vivid experiences.
King Tut's was also the home of then house engineer, Johnny Laing, who has been my stalwart front of house guy for over a decade. The venue itself is run brilliantly, by dedicated people, who make the experience of playing there as memorable as the audience usually does.
Venues like that need supporting. With a crumbling industry and with all of us recession-hit, I worry about the survival of these smaller venues. But I digress.
For years, since the technology became affordable - I've recorded as many live shows as possible - with the invaluable assistance of Johnny and later Olli Cunningham.
I do this for several reasons. We always listen back to recordings from shows on the bus, there's always something to improve, adapt or cull. Mainly these recordings are for my own archives. When your main job is to provide an ephemeral night's entertainment, it's nice to have a personal memento to listen back to. It also helps on the first day of rehearsals before a new tour, when we struggle to remember what the hell it is we're doing.
Sometimes, not often, but occasionally a recording works really well. If the computer doesn't crash, the sound desk doesn't crackle, the house P.A isn't terrible or the hard drive freeze, you can luck out and capture a recording that not only serves as a great reference, but also captures what it was like to actually be at the show. It also helps to have a genius like Johnny Laing driving the desk.
I've never been a huge fan of live albums. Too often they're just lesser recordings of the original album versions. But when they're good, they can be better, or a valuable insight into the continued life and evolution of songs. For me, when I want to listen to one of my heroes, Bruce Springsteen, often as not I'll listen to the live double album from the seventies.
Something about the sound of the crowd (ever so slightly bigger than my usual audience), the way Bruce introduces the songs or the performance of the songs themselves captures something completely fresh and different to his studio albums.
I used to scour the bootleg sections in record stores - remember them? - especially in Dublin - looking for recordings, band versions, solo versions, anything by my heroes that I could learn from or be inspired by.
So for me, when I listen through to my live recordings from over the years, I cross my fingers that the performance is technically usable. I don't mean the playing or singing - a gig's not a gig if my voice doesn't crack or I forget the words. I do it with the hope that maybe one day I'll find a good enough recording to represent a whole show. Or in this case, the best performances from across two nights at the same venue.
Finding these King Tut's recordings, therefore, was a genuine thrill. And something of a nostalgia trip, but there's nothing wrong with that from time-to-time.
Mixing them was a pretty demanding task, then deciding what to leave off! In the end I used most things, leaving off songs where the versions were similar enough to the live trio album from 2007. The heckles and chants and swearing, some of it from the audience, some of it from me, I left on. They were all part of the show, part of the atmosphere. I apologise if any of you are offended.
Actually I left it on because I always wanted to release an album with a "parental advisory" sticker on. Walmart was never going to stock it anyway!
But like I say... maybe you were there. If you were, thank you for playing your part. I came very close to calling it (and I refer to it in my house) as "Gi'us A Happy Song!"
And if you weren't there - this is the next best thing.
I hope you like it.
FULL TRACK LISTING:
You Only Disappear
back at tut's
How The West Was Won
if you need a moment
End of the World News (Doe Me Up)
that was pretty good
Sao Paulo Rain
My Vampire Heart
Boy with the Bubblegun
run to the hills
Language of Fools
The italicised tracks are some inbetween banter and heckling - as usual - but I've given these their own track numbers so you can skip them, or not put them on your ipod if you find them annoying. Personally, I think they're all part of the experience! Especially on headphones.
The picture of the album cover at the top should be okay for you to drag into itunes or to use on your MP3 player for artwork. If not email me at firstname.lastname@example.org - we'll see if we can help. The image was kindly provided by Alex Boyd, an immensely talented photographer (with great taste in music) more of his work can be found here: http://alexboyd.co.uk/
He's won awards and stuff!!! Thanks Alex.
So pour yourself a wee dram, sit back and imagine you're there.
Tuesday, 15 February 2011
It definitely feels as if Spring is in the air, I know this because I'm getting desperate to leave the house, desperate to sing out loud again, after the usual winter spell of planning and house-keeping.
As well as the upcoming String Quartet Shows, I'm putting the finishing touches to another live album, this time some full band recordings from the legendary King Tuts shows in 2004 (you can listen to a wee medley here). It has been fun, and at times a little too nostalgic (with all that that word means) trawling through the archives. Listening to the recordings from seven years ago, perusing the old photographs - I wonder where the time went and how much has changed since those days.
I feel as if I permanently have one foot in the future and one foot in the past, only the present is a hazy uncertain landscape. So the best way to get into the moment is to play some live music - it's a terrible cliche but it really is the time I feel most alive. And I take huge comfort from that. As the world changes and we move away from the economic primacy of art in all its forms, it still is only live music, either watching or performing that has that immense power to move me.
Good to see that there's life in the old dog yet.
P.S See the clever substitution of umbrella for bow in the picture? We are marketing geniuses here.