Looked at life from both sides now…

One of the simple pleasures of my life is having a few tickets pinned to the notice board of our study, the suggestion that there are a few bright things on the horizon. At the moment, pinned to our board are two tickets to see Iron & Wine at St George’s in Bristol, which have been there for over two months – the closest I ever manage to forward planning. Four days, and counting…

John Smith / Davy Graham

Until last week, we also had two more tickets for Sixties folk-legend Davy Graham. I recently told a friend about these tickets and he went on tell me in no uncertain terms that Graham has a reputation for being a little… erratic. (Probably best not to repeat what he actually said.) I’d love to say that all the various Cassandras were proved wrong, that he came on fresh as a daisy and keen to play, that he had the hall in rapture etc etc.

But, well, I guess I was warned.

St George’s is a great venue, an old tabernacle off Park Street with most of its original features still in place and because of its shape and size, it has a really terrific sound. Support act John Smith (another Green Man act I’d not been cool enough to see at the time) made the most of the acoustics and played a really accomplished set. I can’t begin to understand the various picking devices or the detuning techniques he used, but it was clear even to me that he was just damn clever, with a bunch of well written songs and a surprisingly powerful voice.

At one point, he turned his guitar onto it’s back (back?) and coaxed this song out of it with a series of taps, flicks and bumps.

Clever bloke, eh?

You’ll not get very far Googling “John Smith”, as you can imagine, so here is his website and here his Myspace page, where you can skag an mp3 of this song. Or you can take it here.

Winter – John Smith

Davy Graham? I’d rather draw a discrete veil over his performance really. He didn’t really enhance his dwindling reputation, it would be fair to say.

(I don’t mind that he sent his rather harassed-looking driver onto play a few tunes before he came on – that was the cue for a few worried looks in the hall; I don’t mind that he chose not to play any of his past songs or even any from his new album; I don’t even mind the fact that he played a series of “challenging” medieval Spanish and Armenian pieces; but I guess I was disappointed to see that he no longer appeared to be master of his instrument and that the songs he chose to play seemed to be too difficult for him.

And I really, really regret seeing groups of people leaving half way through the set, shaking heads, clearly disappointed, clearly bewildered… )

Old Time’s sake…

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