22 January 2010 (gig)
23 January 2010
Ask almost anyone of a certain age about Nick Drake and they will tell of their personal relationship with his music and their incredible sense of loss at his passing – this of a man who sold minimal numbers of albums while he was alive.
I was only at the beginning of my musical journey when he died and I was rapidly enveloped by the likes of King Crimson, Led Zeppelin and Atomic Rooster but I remember hearing a few of his songs on sampler albums from Island and when the 'Way To Blue’ album was released on CD I was ecstatic at being able to rediscover this mercurial and short lived genius: incredibly so was my Metallica and Sabbath loving son which goes to prove the ability of Nick Drake to appeal to anyone who has an ear for a great musician and who loves great songwriting.
And so to 2010 and the discoverer and early mentor of Nick Drake, Joe Boyd, is 'curating’ a stellar assembly of musicians to celebrate the music of Nick and the arrangements of his longtime friend – and now sadly demised – Robert Kirby.
For over 2 hours we sat – the entire sold-out audience in absolutely rapt attention on the stage. I cannot remember any gig where the audience was more at one with the happening on the stage or any event where the breadth of the age and class range was more apparent as the songs of Nick Drake proved that they are utterly timeless and strong enough to bear the brunt of other voices and treatments without losing any of their charm or beauty.
The first half highlights included Robyn Hitchcock playing a harsh and slightly otherworldly 'Parasite’, Green Gartside magnificently understated on 'Fruit Tree’ and a simply sumptuous rendering of 'One of These’ featuring Danny Thompson on double bass and Zoe Rahman on piano but that sounds almost as though the delicious version of 'Cello Song’ featuring Kirsty Almeida or Vashti Bunyan’s 'Which Will’ with the accordion of Kate St John or stunning takes on 'Place To Be’ and the rousing closer of 'Poor Boy’ were lesser lights – they weren’t, they were still superb but every Drake lover has his or her favourites. Speaking of which, 'Time Has Told Me’ sung by Krystle Warren was a revelation – 'it shouldn’t sound like this' my mind is screaming but she imbued it with a totally new vision and her soulful and deeper tones were simply perfect.
The second half was similarly well proportioned and kicking off with 'Way To Blue’ with a slightly ragged triple vocal settled the audience down and gave us a chance to enjoy Lisa Hannigan’s vocal before Joe Boyd stepped onstage to give us a few words for Robert Kirby – Drake’s original arranger and the man who had written the string arrangements that were being played for us all this evening. He led into a remarkable number – a song by Drakes mother Molly and sung by Vashti Bunyan that was ample proof that his genius was not unique in his family. Again, there are highlights: Robyn Hitchcock, Green Gartside and Neill McColl doing 'Free Ride’ or Harper Simon with 'From The Morning’. A wonderfully folky and wild 'Black Eyed Dog’ featuring Lisa Hannegan and her harmonium, Krystle Warren solo on 'Hanging On A Star’ or, incredibly, 'Pink Moon’ as a Blues!
It is rare to walk out of a show feeling that you have been part of something magical and even more rare to leave feeling recharged and raring to go for another two hours but the performances were so heartfelt and the songs themselves so fine that the whole evening passed in a whisper