30 January 2011 (gig)
10 February 2011
It came to me like an epiphany. Which is fitting really, considering I was, at the time, sat in a pew at the Union Chapel, London’s most ethereal music venue. Watching the support act for Justin Currie, I realised that despite the singer having the most annoying ticks and seeming so nervous she was unable to speak any sense between songs, the audience was transfixed. No grumbles of derision, no chit chat about their Sunday roast, no phones bleeping. Pews must be installed at all music venues! Or am I just getting old?
Obviously the venue’s magic works it spell on the audience as much as the artists on stage, although Heidi Spencer seemed to need slightly more than a sprinkling of fairy dust to light up her show. That maybe harsh, but when you witness what follows, you realise the gulf between Heidi and Del Amitri’s former song-smith. Justin Currie is an enigma, perpetually self depreciating, yet gifted with a voice of pure soul and a heart filled with poetry. Perhaps that’s expected from talented people, but sometimes you wish he’d stop beating himself up and enjoy what he does.
Twice tonight Justin Currie refers to how ‘shit’ he is, yet aside from a couple of humorous cock-ups, the evening is filled with evidence to the contrary. The Chapel is full, and as soon as the set begins with Del Amitri hit ‘Always the Last to Know’ there are loud cheers. Initially it’s just Justin on his guitar or piano, and he gently takes us through more hits like the lyrically sparky ‘Just like a Man’ and the caustic ‘Spit in the Rain’.
It’s 30 minutes before we get anything from his latest release, the brilliant ‘At Home Inside of Me’, which refers to “fireflies caught and cannoned in the rain” and the “brilliant spark of that first love affair”, in a perfect 2 minute jaunt. Bringing in a guitarist, Justin then upped the tempo on ‘This Side of the Morning’ and the exquisite ‘Move Away Jimmy Blue’ from 1989’s Waking Hours.
Justin Currie has always been soft of heart and hard of opinion, and the bitter thrust of ‘No, Surrender’ is a 7 minute bite at today’s fast moving uncaring world; for example “little middle Englanders can’t stand the backpackers”. It’s performed to perfection, before the encore gives the Del Amitri fans here tonight the big hitters, ‘Driving with the Brakes On’ and ‘Be My Downfall’. The latter ends the night with a rousing sing-along. It’s been special. But then if you’re going to see someone with the initials JC perform in front of an altar, it’s likely to be worth remembering.