Wednesday, 13 May 2015

A Different Kind of Gig

Going the extra email
This was always going to be a different kind of gig. There was a time when you were at a gig and you had no idea when the band would be on stage - those were the days of the mad dash from the bar to the stalls as the first chord was struck. Now all you need to do is look carefully behind the bar and you will see a timed running order publised for all to see. The time on stage of support bands and headliners and the curfew! 

However, a personal email a week before the gig to let me know that there was no support and that the gig would start at 7:45 precisely was going the extra mile!

If you have read other posts of this blog you will know that I have moaned about standing in the stalls behind tall people, and being squashed and bounced upon on more than one occassion! That this was going to be a different kind of gig was confirmed as I walked into the Purcell Room in the Queen Elizabeth Hall with its faux leather seats!

And when the concert started it was beyond doubt that this was a very different kind of gig indeed. The band took to the stage and no one raised their camera - in fact it took until the last song of the first set before any camera was raised - although I could not be sure if its owner was taking a photo or just trying to read a text!

As Meklit took the stage she confirmed that this was going to be a different kind of gig kicking off her shoes as if to say, “I'm home, the working day is over, now let's have some fun...”

And fun we had, Meklit lives and breathes her music. From the first note of the first song of the first half it was obvious; the music seeped through every sinew of her body as she danced. I could have watched her all night as every move and subtle gesture of hand, limb and body sang every note with such delight. 

A gig of two halves 
However, this was definitely a gig of two halves. The first set was good, if stuttering at times, only really taking off as Alfred 'Pee Wee' Ellis was invited to join the band for the last song.

After the big intro an old guy wandered on stage and took an age to reach the sax which up to that point had stood tantalisingly unplayed - I did wonder if Meklit should have introduced him before the previous song to allow time for him to take up his position! Pee Wee, one time James Brown's Saxophonist and arranger, may have ambled on but once the sax touched his lips and the song began, gone was the old man and in his place was a musician, rolling back the years as he found the vibe.

As we took our seats after the break it became clear that people around us hadn't returned despite the promise that Pee Wee would be back. Nick Hornby in his book ‘31 Songs’ argues that it was a liberating experience the first time he left a gig part way through, but much as I want to agree with a writer who loves football and music as much as I do, I can't agree that there is ever a time to leave a gig before it ends. 

Tonight was proof. Those who didn't return missed a wonderful second set. The first song with Pee Wee Ellis was full of energy and brilliance which continued right through to the encore.

The band were individually brilliant musicians, her bass player simply superb, the drummer a picture of concentration as he found rhythms only jazz drummers seem to know are there, and the trumpeter who seemed apologetic for her presence for most of the gig except for the wonderful solos! Meklit herself continued to entrance with her movement and voice as she took us on a voyage of musical highlights that kept returning to her Ethiopian jazz roots. 

Only two types of music 
This was a different kind of gig. Well a different kind of gig for me anyway, apart from recitals of jazz standards at Sunday lunch-time sessions in the local I have never been to a Jazz concert before.  This was not a different kind of gig for the majority of people there, they were quite at home and so was I by the end. Because there are only two types of music - Good and Bad! And this was good, this was fantastic, music and a great gig.

To open oneself up to different artists, different genres, different types of gigs, is to move out of your musical comfort zone and into a new experience that enhances your life and deepens your understanding of that thing you love - good music.

Life is too short not to go to a different kind of gig, music is too vast not to go to a different kind of gig and my music snobbery is too constrictive not to go to a different kind of gig!

It felt good to try something different on election night. A few hours later it became obvious that the electorate didn't want a different kind of government - it is going to be a long five years.

(Only 1 photo as I was too embarrased to take anymore as no one else was taking them!)

Gig: 8 of 50
Date of Gig: Thurs. 7th May 2015

Purcell Hall, South Bank Centre


Running total of artists seen 22

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