|A musical evening in three movements
||[Jun. 12th, 2014|10:03 pm]
On Sunday we went into Gateshead for a concert by John Renbourn and Wizz Jones - part of the Sage programme, but actually taking place in Gateshead Old Town Hall (which they refer to, with a straight face, as GOTH).
It has been our habit, when visiting the Sage, to look ahead at the programme and buy tickets for anything we fancy: by buying in person we avoid paying the booking fee charged for online or telephone sales. I know it's pretty standard practice to charge a booking fee, but I've never understood it: don't they want people to book tickets? Who is doing who a favour here? Anyway, it seems that we will no longer be able to avoid it, as the fee will from now on also be charged on sales at the ticket office - and offering cash makes no difference. We bought tickets for four events, which cost us a total of £69; in future, the same purchase will carry an extra charge of £12 (£1.50 on each of eight tickets).
We are outraged; possibly more outraged than is strictly reasonable. We look at the gig, we look at the ticket price, we decide whether we want to pay it; now we simply have to factor in a higher ticket price. And we won't have to organise ourselves to buy when we're at the Sage, because there's no longer an additional cost to buying online. It's more likely, I suppose, that we'll miss events that we haven't organised ourselves to buy tickets for, and that isn't to anyone's advantage, but what can we do?
After this rather fraught overture, the concert itself was pretty laid back; indeed, if it had been laid any further back, it would have been having a nice lie down. I'm pretty sure this was the impression they were going for: two elderly musicians, liable to forget when they were due on stage, or what they planned to play next - but absolutely focused in the music. They've been playing together since the 1960s (ouch! that's fifty years) and I've heard John Renbourn play any number of times, but somehow never heard Wizz Jones before.
The format of the evening was that Wizz Jones came on first and played some solo songs - yes, mostly songs. I don't know why I'd been expecting an evening of mainly instrumentals. I hadn't been expecting this, either:
When Clive James and Pete Atkin started writing songs together, they expected that they would be primarily songwriters, that other artists would perform their songs. It never really happened, and by default Pete Atkin became the performer, and did it brilliantly - I can hear the ghost of his voice in this beautiful version by Wizz Jones.
Then - after a few missed cues - John Renbourn came on, and they played some stuff together. Here's another surprise (sorry about the sound quality):
In the recent spate of memorial concerts and celebrations of Bert Jansch which we watch on BBC4, John Renbourn's absence was conspicuous. Clearly, there was a major problem, but no-one was saying what it was. John Renbourn doesn't seem to be acknowledging it: we had two Bert Jansch songs, and plenty of kind words too.
After the break, the order was reversed: Renbourn came on solo, and Wizz Jones joined him. So to complete the set, here's a video of Renbourn solo:
As I was saying elsewhere recently, he did a particularly powerful version of Lord Franklin on Sunday: which had the peculiar effect of making me hear the words, and what they are doing. The conclusion:
And now my burden it gives me pain is not a generalised lament, it's part of a campaign to get (another) expedition sent out to discover what had happened to Franklin. Ten thousand pounds was the reward offered to the discoverer of the North-Wast passage - and though I'm not absolutely sure of the dates, it's likely that when the song was written Franklin was, in fact, no longer alive. Still a great song, though.
For my long-lost Franklin I would cross the main
Ten thousand pounds I would freely give
To know on earth, that my Franklin do live.
Driving home at half past ten, still not completely dark: we're into the midsummer season. The sky is a rich royal blue, and cow parsley growing round the road signs catches their light in a froth of white lace and green stems.