|Rivers of darkness, bridges of light
||[Oct. 2nd, 2016|11:51 am]
You go months without a concert, and then three come along together.
I didn't know what to expect from Ashley Hutchings - From Psychedelia to Sonnets: "With words and music Ashley entertains in his romp through his musical career..." Well, I'm up for a romp through the career of Ashley Hutchings. But how do you put on the sort of one-man show in which the one man reminisces about his career and performs stripped back versions of some of his greatest hits, when the performance side of that career has always been in bands?
Maybe other people had the same doubts. How else do you explain the low turn-out? I know I said that I thought Gordie MacKeeman deserved a bigger audience, but I was surprised that the Sage had put out tables, café-style, for Ashley Hutchings. And irritated that we'd rushed to finish our wine before the concert started, when we could have taken it in with us. Ah, well.
Once I got over that, it was a very entertaining evening: Ashley Hutchings an avencular figure (the Guv'nor indeed), aided and abetted by Ruth Angell and Becky Mills. The women did most of the singing, pleasant unmemorable songs, while Hutchings read from his lyrics and - an unexpected literary form - sleeve notes, and told stories. I had blanked his part in Fairport Convention, associating him more with Steeleye Span and the Albion Band, so it was a surprise that Fairport got the lion's share of the attention - but if you have stories to tell of the time Jimi Hendrix asked if he could jam with you, you're going to tell them, aren't you? Also a surprise how little traditional music was mentioned: he talked about Lark Rise but not about Cecil Sharp.
Robb Johnson's concert last night was an even more intimate affair. I'd been braced for this, having seen him last time he played the Sage, and also had the foresight to confirm at the bar that we could take our wine in with us. By the time we went in, all the café tables set out in the small middle hall were occupied to some degree, and we ended up sharing a table right at the front with a couple visiting the Sage for the first time, having made the journey up from somewhere near York - and yes, agreed the organiser, he deserved a better audience, but there were more people here than last time. So I could enjoy my ringside seat at a great gig with a clear conscience.
It was one of those magic performances where everything just clicks: good atmosphere, lovely guitar playing, great songs, it all adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Songs about Brexit, about Sidmouth Folk Festival, about Louise Michel - if I could find any trace of that one on the internet I'd post it here. We spoke to Robb Johnson about it afterwards - did he know Bryan and Mary Talbot's Red Virgin? - and enthused about it together. Perhaps it's as well I can't find a video, though, because obviously the appropriate choice is the song he wrote after his last gig at the Sage: