Saturday, 23 May 2015

Musical Chairs

I’d be watching in the wings if the venue had any!
I’m back on familiar ground. A venue I have visited before and a genre I always feel comfortable with. The Green Note is a fantastic little venue in Camden with a capacity of less than 100, a wonderful atmosphere and beer you actually want to drink!

If you haven’t been there yet you need to check the website and choose a gig and go – but go early and get a seat! I arrive with just enough time to make the decision about which beer to have (first!) and then find a place to stand. All the seats are taken and I end up watching from the wings (that is if the venue had wings!) with the headline band.

How refreshing to see the headline act sitting listening to the support act. They are as enthralled as the whole audience is. Hannah Sanders starts the gig with an a cappella song of such strength, beauty and purity that the room is stilled into silence.

She continues through a beautiful set bringing her own haunting interpretation to folk standards with subtle guitar accompaniment and captivating voice.

Musical Chairs
Part way through her set the pregnant lead singer of the The Willows enters and the man sat next to me, who obviously got the last stool, gallantly offers his seat, which she gladly accepts.

Hannah Sander’s set ends and I am offered a stool by The Willow’s violin player as she tunes, which I gladly accept, only to offer it to Hannah Sanders as she comes to watch the headline act, which she gladly accepts!

With the furniture finally arranged I’m left standing once again as the music starts!

At the child’s party, the winner is the one left seated when all others have no chairs. The winners at tonight’s gig are all of us lucky enough to have tickets, whether we are seated or stood. The Willow’s traditional folk sound is quite literally music to the ears - a delicate and delicious mix of individual brilliance and an understanding of how to be part of, not bigger than, the band.

Well-choreographed fight scene
As a band though they are bigger than the stage! As they change instruments between songs it appears a well-choreographed fight scene, as at first there is a parry from the guitar, adeptly avoided by the violin only to cause evasive action from the banjo! And those of us in the wings are not safe from the stray violin bow!

Add into the mix the natural chat in between the songs, which works so well in such an intimate venue, and in what appears to be no time at all we find ourselves at that awkward moment – the ‘last’ song. I know its is not the last song as I can clearly read the set list from my vantage point! The band explain they would normally play this song and leave only to be enticed back by rapturous applause but as the stage is so small they feel it would be embarrassing to try and leave the stage as it would take longer than even the most generous applause! They play the song and finish to rapturous applause staying for the encore. Only to be kept for a second, this time unplanned, encore by even more rapturous applause!

It is one of the great joys of live music – the unplanned encore. In my job, to present only part of my work and wait for affirmation and applause before I finished the job would be ludicrous. The set list that includes an encore is as big a cliché as they come in live music. What that means though is that on the rare occasions you are treated to an unplanned encore it is a special moment.

I will never forget the first time I saw Peter Gabriel back in 1980 at the Manchester Apollo - and leaving as the house lights came up after the encore only to hear from the stairs the first chord of ‘Here comes the flood’. I dived back into the arena to witness a beautiful spontaneous end to the gig!

Upward spiral of folk
It is a great night of folk and a tremendous concert. The proximity of band and audience allows no one to hide. The band can look into your eyes (and not just mine in the wings) and the band can feel the audience’s every breath. The result is that both band and audience have a part to play, and tonight both excelled. 

With each song you sense the upward spiral as the crowd feed on one well-crafted song after another and the band respond to each increase in level of appreciation and applause. The band become more energetic, the audience more animated. These are special evenings, moments of transcendence, spiritual experiences when music is released from capitalism, avarice and greed. Art, free to lift the collective spirit not the corporate’s share price or the individual’s wealth. Tonight does more for anyone’s well being than any wealth creation. Tonight goes beyond the material and touches the places in a person that resonates with life in all its fullness not richness.

And we are all better individuals for it….

Gig: 10 of 50
Date of Gig: Thurs. 21st May 2015

Green Note

Hannah Sanders
The Willows
Running total of artists seen 26

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