A very welcome and unexpected surprise came my way last week, and truth be told I’m still a little flushed …
Having day-dreamed through the fifteen minutes or so that tickets were available for Bill Callahan’s trip to the august surroundings of St George’s in Bristol, I was resigned to missing out. I told myself that I’d seen him before (I have) and that he’d not been all that good (he wasn’t), but well, you know…
Bill Callahan, St George’s
Anyway, out of the blue my generous chum @coleser scored an extra ticket and suddenly it was very much on and all memories of a rather uninspired performance at Green Man were dim and ever so distant. (To be fair to the man, I’m not sure standing awkward and misplaced, on a huge main stage in the lugubrious Welsh rain would be first choice surroundings for a song-writer of his type. And he didn’t have an album as good as Dream River to draw from, either…)
Speaking of misplaced, the Presbyterian charms of Alasdair Roberts seemed to go largely unappreciated as an opener for the evening. I though he was rather fine (and I did make some recordings, for another post, perhaps), but there wasn’t much of a connection with an audience who were perhaps impatient for the main fare of the evening.
Resplendent in check shirt and jeans, with his guitar worn high, like a member of the Hollies, Bill Callahan came on with three musical sidekicks and with little preamble moved straight into my favourite track from Dream River, opener The Sing. It was tossed away casually almost but still sounded brilliant, and left me rueing a missed opportunity to go to the bar and quote song lyrics at the same time (“Ah, I see what you did there, only the fifth guy this evening, that’ll be £7.95, sir…”). Probably best thing al round…
Callahan’s weighty, world-weary baritone seemed to fill the huge space that St George’s provides, and with an uncharacteristically adventurous band lifting him throughout, the cavernous expanses were at times filled by a very big sound indeed.
Over the course of the following two hour set, I think Callahan played pretty much all of Dream River, (just Small Plane was missing) and made lavish use of his impressive songbook, including a roguishly needy version of Dress Sexy For My Funeral which I particularly enjoyed. Other highlights for me were “America!”, “Summer Painter” and an enjoyable, fractured version of “Please Send Me Someone to Love”.
I’d been anticipating a good recording, with the still, sonorous surroundings of St George’s always being a good bet for a good deep sound, and I think the recordings reflect that.
Dress Sexy For My Funeral
No YouTube footage from St George’s, but there’s this clip from Dublin last week…