There’s something magical about live music that’s completely different to listening to a CD, no matter how good the recording. Experiencing the sound as its being produced, with all the subtle changes, and minor (and even major!) slip ups which you don’t get with a polished recording. Its a unique experience, which is probably part of its charm- no matter how many times you see the same band or singer, each event is different from the last.
I’ve been lucky enough over the last few months to be able to see some of my all time favourite musicians, in such a wide variety of venues; Fairport Convention in the Birmingham Symphony Hall, and then Show of Hands in the Albert Hall- the largest most impressive venues I’ve ever been to for a folk gig! There was something truly awe inspiring about looking round the Royal Albert Hall, seeing it filled with that many people, all there to see these two men from Devon standing at the front with guitar and fiddle! And hearing the whole place resound to the tune of some of their great singalongs- the whole Albert Hall singing Roots?! Three folk singers in a pub near Wells wasn’t as offensive an idea to those there that night! Maybe English folk isn’t as dead as we thought..
Since then I also managed to see Eliza Carthy, the first folkie I ever saw live, and a favourite ever since, in the Pontardawe Arts Centre, with her band the Ratcatchers (including John and John of Speirs and Boden fame). Songs I’ve listened to many many times, and thought I knew well, suddenly came to life again before me, through the description of the stories they tell- of separated sweethearts and insanely jealous lovers, all mixed in with a good bit of murder and set to a sea shanty!
Last weekend I went to see Phil Beer on his solo tour, in the Bristol Folk House, where he was joined by the loverly Miranda Sykes and her double bass, and lively traditional folk trio Isambarde. A fun filled evening of singalongs and laughter (even if it was due to the terrible jokes!) but primarily of some of the finest traditional music I’ve heard in a while (entirely subjectively of course, as all of this is).
There’s something very different in hearing new music, because your brain hasn’t decided in advance what to expect, its all new, so you listen more carefully. You hear every slight variation in the sound of the voice, every change in tempo and tone. The rising and falling of each instrument, both blending together as a whole, and yet remaining distinct so you can hear the fiddle, the guitar, the bass.. These things you notice when you hear a tune for the first time, happen again, even with a tune you know so well, when you see it live. That’s the magic of it, and that’s why, no matter how many gigs I’ve been to, there’ll always be another.
So who’s up for the next one then?