25mar08 gig

A busy but exhilarating night in Whelan’s new upstairs venue. I opened the night with three of my own songs: ‘Gone’, ‘Make it home’, and ‘Face in a frame’. I’m still a bit unsure when performing my stuff but I had a few appreciative comments afterwards and I was happy with how they went. I didn’t have time to learn them really well and needed the words in front of me which I really can’t allow myself to do next time.

So, the reason I was playing the event in the first place was because Jill was asked to support. I’ve played with Jill since she recorded her eponymous EP last summer; some songs on cajon, some on guitar, with a sprinkling of backing vocals (or, as Jo called them the other day, ‘man harmonies’!). We started with ‘Instead’ which, the last couple of times we’ve done it, I’ve started on bodhrán before switching to cajon after the first chorus. Not sure how effective this is, although I do like the sound of the bodhrán (which I got in Dingle last month). We had been opening this song with me playing a note on a wine glass – a great effect. I need more hands! Stu suggested using a Tibetan prayer bowl, which is an idea I’ll look into: it would certainly be more robust and require less fiddly preparation than the wine glass. After ‘Instead’ I switched to guitar and we did ‘Dreams’ and ‘Break my every move’. I’m happy with the start of my solo in ‘Dreams’, a nice strong arpeggio, but I always feel it ends less strongly than it begins: must take a look at that. Me switching back to cajon, we did the song that everyone seems to like a lot at the moment, ‘Sweet September’. It’s great fun to play on cajon with its Spanish/Arabian feel in the verses, moving to the ‘up’ chorus and, my favourite bit, the middle section that bursts into the major. Stacie came up and joined us for the last two numbers, Jill’s cover of REM’s ‘Losing my religion’ and ‘Overload’ by the Sugababes. I was enjoying myself at this point and ventured a third harmony which worked well.

Then it was time for the main act of the night, James McMorrow. I’ve never even seen James play before, although I’d really liked his stuff on MySpace, so was delighted when he asked if I’d play piano with him. He had demo versions – with piano parts included – of everything he wanted me to play on so, with a bit of homework under my belt, we were able to run over the songs on Monday and Tuesday afternoons and put them together with the other guys in the band at the sound check. The ‘other guys’ being my old musical companions, Dave and Peter; it was great to play with them again. I’ve lost the setlist but stand-out songs for me were ‘Jacob’, ‘We don’t eat until your father’s at the table’, and ‘I’m free’. I felt totally at home in the various styles of James’s songs, which I’d describe as ‘Americana’, ranging from country to gospel-tinged R’n’B (the old-school, Ray Charles kind). I used my faithful Yamaha P-200 keyboard on the Piano 2 setting for the whole set. Man, it’s a great sounding machine and is lovely to play. Even if it does weigh a flippin’ tonne.

I was on cloud nine the whole night. It was great to see a few recently-off-the-radar friends again and there was a great atmosphere in the room as everyone had gathered to support James, a fact which seemed to dispel any nerves he might have had and he turned out a great performance. Hopefully the first of many more to come. I’ll keep you posted.

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