He’s the soul man

We nearly didn’t see Gregory Porter. I’d booked our tickets in July last year and, as the April date grew imminent, I realised I’d noted the date incorrectly. I’m so glad we didn’t miss out. It was a privilege and a joy to experience an evening of beautiful jazz delivered by the soul man.

Gregory PorterNashville-based singer/songwriter, Kandace Springs, opened the concert. Showcasing songs from her new album, Soul Eyes, she also shared a beautiful cover of Roberta Flack’s The first time ever I saw your face.

Porter’s band took the stage to an enthusiastic welcome. Pianist, double bass player, saxophonist, trumpeter, Hammond organist and drummer welcomed the nattily dressed, hat-wearing gentle giant to the stage with beautiful music.

Gregory Porter opened with Holding On from his upcoming new album, Take Me To The Alley. When the audience responded with appreciative applause and whistles, he introduced his band. Throughout the evening, he shared the stage generously with his band. He stepped out of the spotlight at every instrumental solo, and never failed to show appreciation for his band. And so he should – they were a superb match for his liquid velvet voice.

On My Way to Harlem was his second number. Porter clicks his fingers through every song, feeling every beat, every nuance, every note. After some gentle scatting, he brought the number to a close, before moving on to the beautiful Illusion.

“There’s a lot of trouble in the land,” he reflected, before introducing his next number.

“At the end, feel free to join in with me. But not until the end. I love you, but I don’t want to hear you,” he said.

The son of a preacher mother took us to church and brought us back into the room with No Love Dying. We joined in at his command – at the end – and he seemed pleased with our performance.

“There’s a good vibe in here tonight.”

He encouraged us to clap to the rhythm of our hearts in Liquid Spirit. Porter moved across the stage, taking his mic stand with him. The song featured an insane piano solo, and an equally insane drum solo.

The lyrically and melodically exquisite Hey Laura followed, before another clearly personal track from his new album, Don’t Lose Your Steam.

Boy, you hear me calling your name
The bridge is your time
Your engine rolls hot
If the bridges fall down, don’t lose your head of steam.  

“I wrote that for my three-year-old son to help him eat his cereal. Just carry on doing what you’re doing, and you’ll be all right. But especially for my three-year-old.”

As Porter sat down next to the piano, the rest of his band left the stage.

“This next one is called … whatever I feel like,” he said.

He chose the very poignant and beautiful Don’t Be a Fool, which he and his pianist presented with intimacy and tenderness.

His band returned to the stage, and his very smiley double-bass player opened the next number: a rousing and soulful cover of Motown’s 70s hit – Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone.

Musical Genocide, again with an extraordinary piano solo, and The Consequence of Love followed. Porter, tall and with a towering presence, never hogs the limelight. He appears to revel in the talent of every band member; he feels and appreciates every note.

After another cover – Nat Adderley’s 1960 Work Song, made famous by Nina Simone – followed the moving story of Be Good. This brought with it an outstanding and beautiful sax solo – delicate, sultry, sublime.

An astonishing trumpet solo in 1960 What? – the song inspired by Porter’s own stories of life in Detroit, as well as Martin Luther King’s assassination – brought the concert to a close and the audience, screaming and whooping to its feet. Porter again acknowledged his band, said “God bless you,” to the audience, and walked off the stage.

He came back with the energetic Be Free. He sang his gratitude to the audience and hoped we’d felt the love. He bowed, waved to us and walked off the stage, leaving his band playing. Starting with the pianist, each band member took it in turn to play solo before walking off the stage. The double-bass player – now on an electric bass guitar – and the drummer challenged each other to a musical duel, before the guitarist left the stage with guitar flung over his shoulder.

The drummer held the stage for a further five minutes. He teased us by pretending several times to stop playing, and then continuing his awesomeness. When he eventually stopped, put down his sticks and sauntered off the stage, the audience went crazy.

Give me a blues song, tell the world what’s wrong
And the gospel singer, giving those messages of love
Woah, and the soul man, with your heart in the palm of his hand
Singing his stories of love and pain, woah.

Thank you, Mr Soul Man, for holding us all in the palm of your hand for the evening. What an outstanding band, an awesome concert. Woah!

Sunshine in London signing off for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in the blogging lane

I started writing my blog about a year after we arrived in London. I started writing it for a number of reasons. It was mainly to do with catharsis. Little did I realise a new world would open up in front of me.Brighton.jpgThis week I met up with someone who follows my blog from South Africa. Sitting in a hipster little coffee shop in central London, and chatting to Jacqui from Africadayz  about why I started my blog, and hearing how it had inspired her to start hers, I realised how pivotal my blog had been to my whole London experience. It kept me sane, it kept me focused, it kept me hopeful and it kept me connected at a time when things could so easily have been so different.

I was job hunting at the time. The process was soul-destroying. It took so much of my time, with little if any return, and it was challenging to feel upbeat about making that the focus of my every day. With encouragement from friends across the world, I investigated starting a blog. I thought it would balance the tedium of seeking employment in the Big Smoke. And I hoped it would be fun.

I had no idea – and I still don’t – where it would lead. I just knew, on a gut level, that I needed to write.

I chose to call my blog ‘Sunshine in London’ for reasons you can read here. I remember the trepidation with which I pressed ‘publish’ for the first time ever. It was August 2010, and I was nervous as all heck to put my writing out in the public domain. It was the first of what became daily posts about my London adventure. I write about life in London, about job hunting, about being an outsider in the Big Smoke, about our now overflowing red box, and about everything that makes me laugh.

The process of writing a blog has been almost life-changing for me. I find I look at the world slightly differently, I’m constantly fine-tuning my observation skills and, while reading the outstanding, often exquisite, work of a community of writers I’ve grown to know and love, I know I’m learning from the best. Every day  brings the opportunity to read great work, and to sharpen my skills.

My now dear friend, Wendy, from Herding Cats in Hammond River, was the first ‘stranger’ to visit my blog and comment on a post I’d written. I remember how excited I felt that someone – who lived in Canada – had paid my blog a visit, and had liked what I’d written enough to comment. She and I would visit each other’s blogs every day and I loved discovering with her how much we had in common. I’ve not met Wendy in person yet, but I know that one day we will. We’re already friends.

Through meeting Wendy, I found other equally fabulous bloggers and connected with them. As my blog world grew, organically, I soon found myself part of a community of like-minded people from across the globe. I loved it. It gave meaning to my days, I read excellent and honest writing, and I laughed and cried with an outstanding bunch of human beings.

I’ve loved the sense of belonging I’ve felt. In many ways I’ve felt validated in my writing, and in my perspective on life. I had no idea writing a blog would do that for me.

One snowy day in December 2010, I went out for the morning and spotted someone cutting her finger nails, at my local bus stop. It got me thinking of all the strange and weird sights I’d seen on public transport. When I got home I wrote a characteristically light-hearted post about what I called ‘public displays of toiletry’ (PDTs). This throwaway post – Please don’t do THAT in Public – got Freshly Pressed and attracted the attention of about 5,500 readers and hundreds of commenters over the next few days. I was flabberghasted. I was also thrilled and slightly unnerved by this unexpected attention.

I’ve also discovered just how discoverable your online writing can be. As lovers of live music, Mr Sunshine and I go to many concerts and I write about them. One post reviewing a Van Morrison gig not only got picked up by a Van Morrison fanzine, but the chap I’d sat next to read it too! Equally, a blog about a Paolo Nutini concert got picked up by one of his fanzines too.

I found more new friends and blog followers after that. I have since met – in real life – two other fellow bloggers from North America: Renee from Life in the Boomer Lane  and Caitlin from Broadside. It was amazing to meet them and, as I did with my new friend last week, discover that friendship in cyberspace can easily translate into real life. I have a few other blog buddies I’ve connected with on social media too.

One of the most moving blog moments for me involved a post about language, and about sounding forrin here in London. In the post – So this is where I learnt to speak funny – I mentioned my Zimbabwean high school teachers, one of whom (Mr K) I reminisced about with affection. Through schoolfriends in Australia and Canada, I got in touch with Mr K’s wife in Cape Town, who read the post to an ailing-and-in-hospital Mr K. She told me it made him laugh. It was only a short while later that he passed away.

I did find a job after my seemingly endless hunt. That was five years ago. My blog took a back seat for a good part of those years, and I’m just starting to get myself back in the blog writing lane. My book is ever brewing in my belly, I have a constant desire to get better at writing, and I value the nurturing connection my blog writing has given me to a world of talented and remarkable people. What better motivation could there be?

Sunshine signing off for today!

 

 

 

 

 

An evening in Coolsville

We spent yesterday evening in Coolsville, with the Duchess herself. She sang her way through the soundtrack to my student days in the early 1980s; listening to classic Rickie Lee Jones live was another awesome, red box experience.

The Duchess of Coolsville, 57, skipped on to the Royal Festival Hall’s stage in trademark brown beret and half an hour late for her Pirates concert. According to the Southbank Centre preview, the queen of pop/jazz/country/soul/R&B/blues/you-name-it, with a career spanning 30 years, maintains an unwavering cool despite a historically difficult personal life which has seen her battle and overcome broken hearts and drug addiction. Her concert featured tracks from her two most successful LPs, Rickie Lee Jones and Pirates, in her only stop in the UK before heading to Paris and Bilbao to round off her short European tour.

She opened with Danny’s All Star Joint to thunderous applause, and went on to dance with her beret through After Hours (12 bars past midnight). Spent, she abandoned her beret along with her water bottle, on the piano.

Rickie Lee Jones is not as tall as I would have imagined. I loved watching her bob and weave around the microphone with, what looked to me like awe and fear, and always, always needing the sound to be perfect.

The audience went crazy to hear the opening bars of Chuck E’s in Love, which the Duchess delivered to perfection before moving into a self-conscious, exquisitely delicate and vulnerable, arms-folded version of Company. A beautiful Easy Money prefaced her move to the piano, where she played and sang for the next hour. Living it Up was followed by a call from Rickie to ‘play some more happy songs’, as she moved on to the hauntingly beautiful clarinet-soloed Skeletons.

Ms Jones’ band is filled with outstanding musicians: a crazy talented lead guitarist, a Duke of Coolsville on bass, a keyboard (piano and Hammond organ) magician, an astounding drummer and ridiculously brilliant three-piece horn section of saxophone/clarinet, trumpet and trombone. Each artist had their moment in the spotlight to share their beautiful talent.

After We Belong Together, Rickie Lee apologised for being late.

“Did you forgive me yet for coming on late? I don’t have any reason, except I wasn’t ready. In so many ways,” she said ironically before moving on to Lucky Guy, filled with pretty, pretty Hammond organ solos. On Saturday Afternoons in 1963 was followed by an emotional, tear-filled outpouring of Coolsville.

The Duchess followed her heart rather than the setlist, which kept the band watching her closely and the setlist frequently being replaced.

She moved on to Pirates and Traces of the Western Slopes before a funky Woody and Dutch on the Slow Train to Peking. Guitar in hand, Ms Jones talked of her first trip to London in 1979 and how everything about the city ‘creeped her out’ as she walked through the ‘emotional chasm of heroine withdrawal. Everything was different, from having only one television channel (‘that played dogs chasing sheep’), to the light switches, to waking up at 3am and everyone was asleep’.

As an apology for that story, she sang a bonus number, a pure-Rickie Lee version of On the Street Where You Live. The Weasel and the White Boy’s Cool rocked the most insane lead guitar solo before Night Train, Young Blood, Last Chance Texaco and After Hours.

Ms Jones wept as she talked of the ‘supreme peace that found me, unexpectedly, on this Pirates tour’. She thought it would be a nightmare, reliving the difficult times through Pirates, but found that she can now ‘go home and sleep at night’.

With emotion and gratitude, she sang the closing number The Returns, leaving us all with a hope that the Duchess of Coolsville will be back. Two hours of pure Rickie Lee Jones magic. Catharsis rocks.

Sunshine signing off for today!

These are the good times

Having lived in London for two years, it was only last week that we experienced our first open-air concert in the rain. BBC Radio 2’s annual music festival in Hyde Park is a wonderful day’s entertainment. Add four seasons into that day, and I bid you welcome to British autumn.

Hyde Park’s summer season of open-air concerts ends with this one. It’s kind of ‘goodbye open air concerts; goodbye summer; hello any season you like, all at once’.

It was a huge line-up that we bought tickets to see. Billed by BBC Radio 2 as ‘a festival in a day’, the programme ran from 3.30pm to 10pm (‘any later and we’ll keep the Queen awake!’), packed in a whopping 12 artists in a row and 40,000 people into the park. The rain came and went, as did the sunshine and wind. The evening ended with a full-moon rising, blurred behind the clouds.

The likes of ’70s African American disco and R&B band, Chic, played numbers from our disco days:

Chic - who brought Le Freak to the world in 1978

Alabama-born duo, The Pierces, brought new American sounds into the mix, along with dazzlingly popular UK band Take That’s Gary Barlow. Add in some Will Young, James Blunt, Imelda May, Lenny Kravitz, Jonathan Jeremiah, Caro Emerald, Beverley Knight, Bellowhead and Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, Ruby Turner, Louise Marshall and a rare live performance from Sandy Shaw, and you have a spectacular afternoon of music and entertainment.

A number of the artists were new discoveries for us: Jonathan Jeremiah with his mesmerising ‘Lost’.

Jonathan Jeremiah - I just loved his 'Lost'. What a great find.

Imelda May’s contemporary rockabilly beat seriously rocked, and I was entranced with her playing of the bodhrán (Irish frame drum), not to mention her unique style and talent.

Imelda May - a great Irish rockabilly star

British talent is always popular in London. Will Young was ill and without much of a voice, disappointingly, but he did his best; he even tried miming to one of his songs. That wasn’t such a great idea. James Blunt rocked the park, much to my surprise, and I didn’t see his jumping-on-to-the-piano dramatics coming at all. Not at all.

Beverley Knight brought rocking soul to the stage, while Bellowhead – with their 11-piece band of piano accordion, banjo, mandolin, cello, fiddles, trombone, saxophone and tuba – brought a kind of medieval story-telling into the mix. I really loved them.

Caro Emerald, from Holland, was another new and lovely voice to hear, while Lenny Kravitz – in his trademark shades – was just incurably cool.

Lenny Kravitz is too smooth. And he does move

Ruby Turner filled the park with her big voice and rousing Infatuation and Moving out of the Cold, with sensational backing from Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. Backing singer, Louise Marshall, also grabbed the mic and the audience’s attention; she’s another one to watch.

Gary Barlow stood in for headline act, Lionel Ritchie, who was either ill or busy with a new album, or both. Gary is currently heading the judging panel on the new season of X Factor and, if the contestants represent a chunk of the UK population, a lot of women on this island are in love with Gary Barlow. He couldn’t have been better received.

Gary Barlow. Much-loved British artist

I have to say, though, that my favourite favourite of the whole day might not be what you’d expect. Contemporary music, new music, rockabilly, heart throbness, coolness, retro beat, story-telling and miming aside; this grand lady floated on to the stage in sparkly short pants, fringed top and shining black locks. With long beautiful legs that flowed all the way to the ground and into two bare feet, her two songs took me back to a childhood in dusty Zambia, where – despite being light years behind the rest of the world – we still knew iconic pop music when we heard it. Even if we were only six.

Here’s the original version of one of Sandy Shaw’s two songs:

Rain, sunshine, wind and many drunken revellers notwithstanding, our red box got richer by two more tickets. And, in the words of Sandy Shaw’s second number last Sunday, there’s Always something there to remind me.

Sandy Shaw - on the soundtrack of my childhood - performing here with crazy-talented Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra
If you look beyond the brollies, you can see Will Young

Sunshine signing off for today!

An audience with Miss Chatelaine

It must be about 20 years ago that I first saw this floppy-fringed Canadian singer. I didn’t really like her look and paid little attention. Until I heard her sing. Miss Chatelaine blew my mind, not to mention my assumptions. Seeing her perform that song live last night felt like a musical dream for me.

Just a smile,  just a smile, hold me captive for a while
I can’t explain why I’ve become Miss Chatelaine
Every time your eyes meet mine,
Clouds of qualm burst into sunshine

kd lang live at the Royal Festival Hall. Yesterday’s date stared out at me from our calendar for a few months, our tickets stared out at me from their shelf in our cabinet, and I grew more and more excited as the day neared. Yesterday was a beautiful warm and sunshiney day in London; temperatures hovered around 26 degrees for most of the day. After work I walked along the edge of the Thames from my London Bridge office towards the South Bank, where I’d arranged to meet my husband at the Nelson Mandela bust. It seemed fitting.

Much of London was out enjoying the sun and the summer construction of a “beach” along the South Bank. Street dancers performed, families strolled along licking ice lollies, pubs overflowed with chirpy office workers, benches and patches of grass were filled with cheery people enjoying the welcome London sunshine. In lengthening shadows and royal blue sunshine, the balmy evening was simply sublime.

Because we booked early for last night’s show, we managed to get great seats in the fifth row from the stage. Little Miss Higgins and Floyd Taylor opened the show with infectiously bouncy old time country music, inspired by her rural home in the Great Northern Plains of Western Canada. After a short interval, kd lang and the Siss Boom Bang Band took the stage and wove musical magic around us for the next hour and a half.

Opening with I Confess from her recently-released and beautifully crafted Sing it Loud album, she moved on to The Water’s Edge before sending the audience into raptures with her crazy-fabulous arrangement of Miss Chatelaine. Mixing old and new songs, she sang and she danced and with every word, she reached out from her soul to an adoring audience.

When she shouted, “London!” we screamed and we whooped and we whistled, before her rousing delivery of Sing it Loud, her album’s title song and anthem to being who you are. She then began a set of spiritual songs starting, as she said, “at the top and working my way down”. She tore through Talking Head’s Heaven before moving on to probably the most sincere and emotional offering of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah I have ever heard. She brought me to tears and all of us spontaneously to our feet. After a poignant A Sleep with No Dreaming, she ended the set by giving her guitar pick to a little girl in the front row. Much applause followed and then kd said, “What? She wants my guitar too? Right. Everyone wants Josephine; she’s that kinda gal.”

She then introduced us to the immensely talented band from lead guitarist, to bass player, drummer, keyboard/piano wizard and then ended with the man who “changed my life”. She met Joe Pisapia at the Ryman Auditorium at the Grand Ole Opry and what we experienced last night is what resulted from “that union”. I’d heard her talk before about the name of the band – Siss Boom Bang is what happens when they play together. They sizzle and they just work. Beautifully.

A clearly well-loved woman, kd batted audience chirps away with grace and gentle wit. One audience member shouted out a whole bunch of song titles. This seemed to confuse ms lang, who said, “So many titles, so few mine.”

What followed was The Perfect Word, Habit of Mind, Reminiscing (what an adorable love song), Sorrow Nevermore (where kd ditched Josephine to play the banjo) and ended with a powerful rendition of Constant Craving. The audience went ballistic and she and the band left the stage. We wouldn’t let her go, so she returned sans shoes and jacket for the beautiful Inglewood, before her final and delightfully frenetic Sugar Buzz.

We still didn’t want her to go. And nor did she. She and the band returned for a third and final encore. She gathered her band closely around her on the stage to perform a song “for all the businessmen here tonight”. A fun and bouncy Pay Dirt  was followed by the achingly delicate Hungry Bird.

kd lang and the Siss Boom Bang Band then left the stage. They left us screaming for more but knowing we’d just experienced an evening of musical genius. I loved it. k daddy – you have the voice of an angel and I’m a fan. A big fan.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Songs from the soul

Non, Je ne Regrette Rien

( My blog friend, Cindy, at The Only Cin nominated me for Side Views’s weekend theme. She gave me this title, and I thought re-posting this from last November would fit the bill.)

“I’ve got sunshine, on a cloudy day,” is playing on the radio as I write. It’s grey and miserable and wet and cold in London today. The song is perfect encouragement for me.

So back to our weekend. After our delightful breakfast in Bethnal Green on Saturday morning, we went to Greenwich to show our friend the market and the wonderful second-hand record shops. The first record shop we went into had this poster on its window – there’s a bit too much reflection in the photo, but it’s clear enough to show you the message. Sorry to all the Celine Dion fans out there … nothing personal! Promise.

So this was a great record shop!

“You got the new Celine Dion, man?” “Gulp! Err, No. But we have got some decent music, though.”

My husband and his friend were lost in old records and memories, and moved on from that shop to another that has two levels of second-hand sounds. Wall to wall records and CDs … heaven, indeed!

After a good old bogle, we moved across the road to Greenwich market. The market in Greenwich dates back to 1700, when the Royal Charter Market was assigned to Greenwich Hospital for a thousand years. It has moved site since then and over the years has grown and evolved into the arts, crafts and food market that it is today. You can buy anything from a divinely iced cup cake to a leather handbag, jewellery, clothing, second-hand books, Italian nougat and a hat. Flanked by vintage clothing stores, pubs, coffee shops and toy shops, there is also a fabulous food section in the market where you can buy any kind of food from curries and Turkish wraps (our absolute favourite!) to cakes and sweets.

One of my favourite places in London.

One of our favourite things to do is to go there after church on a Sunday, pick up a Turkish wrap and then go and walk through Greenwich Park, venturing up to the Royal Observatory if we have the legs, or just relaxing on a bench or on the grass. It’s always lovely there, and if you do walk up the hill, you can see just how curvy the Thames is. I look forward to going there when it’s snowing and watch the tobogganers speeding down the hills. Earlier this year, a few English bobbies were reprimanded for tobogganing on their shields (somewhere in Oxford, I think). I loved that story – they just couldn’t resist the thick snow and they had perfect makeshift toboggans!

On Saturday night we took our friend to the Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston, north London, to see Britain’s finest jazz singer, Ian Shaw. Despite getting slightly lost en route there (our trademark), we got there good and early and sat and had a drink in the pub downstairs until the doors opened.

We went upstairs as soon as we could, and waited for the great muso to arrive and start his show. He was just fabulous. He sang a few of his Joni Mitchell numbers – mashing Edith and the Kingpin together with Big Yellow TaxiTalk to Me and a wonderful mix of River and A Case of You. In between he delighted with Stuck in the Middle With You, Bowie’s Ch-ch-ch-changes and a beautifully poignant Alone Again, Naturally that brought me to tears.

Ian Shaw, jazz singer extraordinaire.

When we were waiting downstairs before we went in, we saw a huge posse of youngsters arrive, all dressed in matching tracksuit tops, and heading towards the Club. The Club is pretty small and we couldn’t imagine that they could possibly be going to see Ian Shaw. Where would they sit, and why would youngsters – apparently on a school trip – want to go to an evening of jazz? Turns out they were a big band from a school in Finland and were obviously mad-keen musicians. I felt quite ashamed of my assumptions, and listened in awe as a handful of them scatted along confidently at Ian Shaw’s nod, and one took out his saxophone and, with perfect attitude and flair, accompanied Ian Shaw’s intuitive piano playing. I was humbled and oh so impressed.

Ian Shaw took a few requests, and generously sang Baghdad Cafe, mixing up a hilarious snippet of Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights in the middle. An absolutely fabulous version of Al Wilson’s The Snake led him to the perfect closing number in Shirley Horn’s Here’s to Life. A beautiful conclusion to an exceptional day.

No complaints and no regrets.
I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets.
But I have learned that all you give is all you get, so give it all you got.
I had my share, I drank my fill, and even though I’m satisfied I’m hungry still
To see what’s down another road, beyond a hill and do it all again.
So here’s to life and all the joy it brings.
Here’s to life the dreamers and their dreams.
Funny how the time just flies.
How love can turn from warm hellos to sad goodbyes
And leave you with the memories you’ve memorized
To keep your winters warm.
There’s no yes in yesterday.
And who knows what tomorrow brings or takes away.
As long as I’m still in the game I want to play
For laughs, for life, for love.
So here’s to life and all the joy it brings.
Here’s to life, the dreamers and their dreams.
May all your storms be weathered,
And all that’s good get better.
Here’s to life, here’s to love, here’s to you.
May all your storms be weathered,
And all that’s good get better.
Here’s to life, here’s to love, here’s to you.

Sunshine signing off for today!

 

Our red box

We have a red box into which we throw any tangible memories of our adventures here in London. This morning I threw two Paolo Nutini concert tickets in there – mementoes of a surprisingly wonderful concert we saw last night.

I don’t know Paolo Nutini’s music too well, although I enjoy it and we have his CDs. When we saw he was performing in London, we thought it would be great to see him. I just didn’t realise he would blow my highlights back as much as he did last night. He is one hugely talented songwriter and singer, and his poignant lyrics and soulful delivery belie his 23 years.

I booked our tickets the very minute ticket sales opened, about a month ago. I was thrilled to get our two tickets, and I grew more and more excited as the concert date loomed on our calendar. What I didn’t realise, and I only discovered when we chatted to a couple last night who had travelled over from New Zealand for the concert, was that the tickets sold out in three minutes. I was totally oblivious to the mad scramble that ensued for tickets after I had got ours … the NZ couple paid three times more than we paid for our tickets, as they’d bought them on auction.

Paolo was the headline act for one of the Little Noise Sessions –  an annual week-long acoustic festival to raise funds for Mencap, a mental health charity. Tom Jones headlined for the festival the night before, supported by one of our other favourites, Lauren Pritchard.

The concert was at the Union Chapel in Islington, north London. (The scene of a disaster earlier this year when we saw the wrong show – check out Bad memories make good stories …)  It is a beautiful and relatively intimate venue, it seats about 850 people and it also still functions as a church. We got seats in the third row pews, and had a perfect, uninterrupted and up-close-and-personal view of the artists.

The opening acts were great: Jessie J, Michael Kiwanuka and Rumer. Check them out on youtube, they are all worth listening to. Rumer was my favourite; she is shy and self-conscious and her beautiful, soothing voice has been likened to Karen Carpenter’s. Her two big singles Slow and Aretha have had plenty of airtime on radio this year. She says she took ten years to become an overnight success!

The audience went ballistic to welcome Paolo Nutini on stage. Accompanied by a fabulous band – strings, brass, keyboard, drums, plenty of guitars and a ukelele – Paolo took the stage and kept us gripped for the next 90 minutes or so. Occasionally he would say a few words between songs, but mostly he just belted out number after number to the adoring delight of the audience, some of whom seemed to know the words to every song.

He didn’t introduce his band, although he did mention “big hairy Dave”, one of the acoustic guitarists who had co-written a song with him. As the band soulfully and passionately wove magic around Paolo’s unique voice, we enjoyed a journey through songs such as Candy, Pencil Full of Lead, Jenny Don’t be Hasty, Worried Man, Growing Up Beside You and the new and brilliant Bear With Me. My favourite of the evening was Paolo’s beautiful interpretation of Nature Boy, backed by a haunting and liltingly string-filled arrangement.

Of Italian descent, Paolo is exceedingly Scottish. Third generation Scottish, in fact. He grew up in Paisley, on the borders of Glasgow, the son of a fish and chip shop owner. Quite awkward in his song delivery, Paolo locks his knees together, stands on his tiptoes and leans to one side as he pours raw, eye-closed talent and passion through the microphone. His broad Scottish accent shines delightfully through his every song and, as well as everything else about him, that makes me smile.

Our red box is growing full.

Sunshine signing off for today!

Excerpt from Pencil Full of Lead

I’ve got a sheet for my bed
And a pillow for my head
I’ve got a pencil full of lead
And some water for my throat
I’ve got buttons for my coat
And sails on my boat
So much more than I needed before

I got money in the meter
And a two bar heater
Oh now it’s getting hotter
It’s only getting sweeter
I’ve legs on my chair
and a head full of hair
Got in a band
And shoes on my feet

I’ve got a shelf full of books
And most of my teeth
Two pairs of socks
And a door with a lock
I’ve got food in my belly
and a License for my telly
And nothin’s gonna bring me down