Monday 16 January 2017

Who's Gonna Build Your Wall?

I have been to Hebden Bridge Trades Club to see the mighty Tom Russell. The last time I visited the town was way back before the floods, when the big bouncy woman and I took a stroll up to Hardcastle Crags one very pleasant October morning in 2015, coincidentally just a couple of weeks after I previously saw Russell in concert. I had never been to the venue before, and found it to be - and I choose my words carefully - atmospheric. It suffered very badly from water damage, being close to both canal and river, but may or may not have been extensively renovated; it was hard to tell. It also made me wonder whether the governments austerity programme has led to a reduction in inspections by the fire brigade. As for the clientele, they were somewhat of a mixed bunch. For the record I am not referring to Peter who, as a big fan of this type of music and Russell in particular, was there; making a rare interface of wargaming and my other hobbies such as music and...well  my other hobbies.  My companion for the evening was a bit disconcerted by the person - neither of us could work out whether it was a man or a woman - sitting next to her. When said person got up to have a wander during the interval he/she left behind on the chair, and in plain view, some money, a phone battery and a condom. I'm not sure what enjoyment one could hope to have without taking those three essentials with you, but perhaps that's just me. In any event the audience was obviously very knowledgeable about the man's music, indeed they appeared to sometimes be shouting out for songs that were so obscure that even he had never heard of them.

But, despite all that, the gig was great. Russell's between song talking is almost as important as his singing. He told various anecdotes about, for example, Johnny Cash and managed to be entertainingly rude about both Torquay and Tromso, showing the sort of cosmopolitan outlook so often lacking in these dark times. There has been a silver lining for him at least, as he was able to report an sizeable uptick in royalties from his song "Who's Gonna Build Your Wall", written a decade ago, but enjoying a new relevance. It was an almost universally excellent concert. One must perhaps overlook the song about Dylan Thomas that was quite clearly "Streets of London" with different words, and most of those either direct quotes from "Do Go Gentle Into That Good Night" or just the names of pubs in Swansea; even one's heroes occasionally fail to meet our expectations. Once again featuring the marvellous Max di Bernardi on guitar, the set list overlapped that of the last time I saw him - he could surely never get away without singing Tonight We Ride and one or two others - but with an extensive back catalogue and a willingness to cover people's songs - a rather fine Johnny Cash medley this time, Warren Zevon's Carmelita last time - there is plenty of variety. He is apparently returning in November and I hope to see him again then.

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