Patti Smith Live: 26.06.2012

Imagine, if you can, almost every lesbian in South Wales and a fair few from the South West and London, crammed into a small wood-paneled venue and you have something approximating the experience of seeing Patti Smith play at the Coal Exchange in Cardiff.  Andy and I were quickly scooped up by a group of fifty-somethings from London who seemed to think we were very young and sweet, and that they ought to support us through our first Patti Smith gig.

I never really thought I’d get to see Patti Smith play live and didn’t believe it was going to happen until she actually appeared on stage.  I think I would have paid the ticket price just for the opener, ‘Dancing Barefoot’, but that was followed a generous set of favourites: ‘Free Money’, ‘Beneath the Southern Cross’, ‘Redondo Beach’, ‘Ghandi’, ‘Peaceable Kingdom’,  a fist-pumping rendition of ‘Because the Night’, a very long (and even better for being a bit messed up) sing-along version of ‘Gloria’, ‘Babelogue’ and ‘Rock N’ Roll N****r’.

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Gillian Welch & David Rawlings live: 21.11.2011

I can’t remember who introduced me to Gillian Welch, but she’s become one of my favourite folk artists, an incredibly talented singer-songwriter whose expressive, world-weary voice is perfect for reinventing the appacalian and bluegrass traditions that she draws on in her songs.   So I was extremely pleased to get the chance to see her play live in Manchester last month with her long-term musical partner, David Rawlings, even if the tickets did require my spending the money I’d set aside to buy new work shoes.

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Throwing Muses Live: 08.11.2011

Last night I ticked the “See the Throwing Muses play live” item off my ‘To Do’ list and they were awesome.  I can hardly believe I was standing about ten feet away from Kristin Hersh all night, and I’m not sure the band could believe they’d been put in a position quite so up-close-and-personal with the good people of Cardiff.   Kristin asked at one point if anyone could “smell Dave” (drummer David Narcizo) because apparently the band members were all a little ripe from travelling.  They also seemed a bit overawed by the venue – The Gate in Cardiff, an old church which has been refurbished and turned into a strangely posh community centre.   “It’s so beautiful here” said Kristin, “This isn’t going to go well, we’re not beautiful”.   But it was great and I think they’re all gorgeous.

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The Indigo Girls Live: 18.10.2009

Last night we went to see The Indigo Girls.  This lesbian band has been going since 1985 and the audience at last night’s gig showed a good percentage of older lesbians, but I have to say, I have never seen such a wide range of lesbians in one place at the same time. It would probably take K.D. Lang to better it.  There were even mullets.

The audience’s reception was incredibly warm and the band seemed a little bowled over by it, not having visited the UK for some years.  There were a few complaints from the Welsh cohort who wanted to know why (oh why) they weren’t playing Cardiff.  I don’t think Emily or Amy had the slightest idea where Cardiff is and seemed a bit foggy on the concept of there being two nationalities in the audience. They blamed their agent.

Amy was looking very hot in white shirt, black vest and black pinstripe trousers.  Aside from having slightly smaller hair than she had in her early youth, Emily hasn’t changed that much since 1985 — I mean, flannel shirt over CND T-shirt.

It was a real feel-good gig.  They played several songs from their new album, but relied mainly on favourites from their back catalogue and encouraged much singing-a-long.  In terms of performance, they were absolutely professional and seamless, making it all appear effortless.

I can’t remember the set list in order, but from the new album they played:

Suger Tongue
Driver Education
What are you like?
I’ll Change
Love of our lives
Second Time Around
Fleet of Hope

And from the back catalogue they played:

Power of Two
Three Hits (my favourite)
Galileo
Closer to Fine
Starkville
Yield
Johnny Rotten (from one of Amy’s solo efforts)
She’s Saving Me
Reunion
Get out the Map
Hand me Downs
Go
Ghost
Pendulum Swinger
Fill it up Again

Mary Gauthier Live: 22.07.2009

I first saw Mary Gauthier in 2002 in a small crammed cafe bar playing from her Drag Queens in Limousines and Filth and Fire albums. She was funny but subdued and I was delighted to discover a lesbian country singer. One of the women I was with called it “sad songs about dead dogs”, but she was pissed off about something else. The woman sitting next to me kept crying. I didn’t know why at the time, having only just joined this particular crowd and being oblivious to underlying drama, so I just went on and drank as much wine as I could hold. I’ve never forgotten the hangover I had the next day at work.

I can’t find the tear-stained ticket stump from my second Mary Gauthier gig in 2005. I usually keep these things, but perhaps it dissolved. Needless to say, by the time I saw her again I was myself deeply embroiled in the drama. She sang mainly from her album Mercy Now which I think is her saddest and, to this day, I can hardly bear to hear even though I think ‘Wheel Inside the Wheel’ and ‘Mercy Now’ are two of her best songs.

In 2008, entirely by accident, I saw Mary again in St Louis. My girlfriend and I booked tickets to see The Cowboy Junkies and she just happened to show up as the supporting act. I was on THE big decision-making trip to the US and it seemed both appropriate and a little portentous to find Mary at yet another juncture in my lesbian life. And, like me, she was a lot more chipper this time around, playing songs from Between the Daylight and the Dark with raucous good humour and delight. We bought a signed poster.

I saw Mary for the fourth time in the North of England last week and of course I’m at another crossroads in my life.  She was on very good form, still seeming happy, telling hilarious stories about hobos with laptops, medicine women who recommend books by Harvard psychiatrists and staying in the kind of motel where the folksinger has the best car in the parking lot (so you know it’s not a family place). My girlfriend and I were a little perturbed to find ourselves the youngest people in the place and that no one wanted to sit next to us, but we had a ball nonetheless.

Roll on next time.

Leonard Cohen Live: ‘Still Working for your smile’

Last night a friend and I went to see Leonard Cohen. Being as we’ve both been in love with him since we were about 16 this was a pretty momentous event.  He danced onto the stage, a very small man in a snappy suit and trilby hat, genial, gentlemanly and still gorgeous.  His stamina is astounding. I doubt I’ll be able to perform for three hours when I’m seventy four.  It was more about seeing him in the flesh than anything else, but finding him in good voice was an added bonus.  And what a crowd pleaser! He didn’t mess us around with the set; he sang our favourites.  This isn’t in the right order, but he gave us:

Dance me to the end of love

Ain’t no Cure for Love

Bird on a Wire

The Future

In My Secret Life

Hey, that’s no way to say goodbye

Who by Fire (at which point I am struck by the fact that I am singing along to ‘Who by Fire’ with Leonard Cohen)

The Partisan (wonderful arrangement)

Hallelujah (during which Philomela has a moment)

Everybody Knows

The Gypsy Wife

Famous Blue Raincoat (during which I have a moment)

Suzanne

So Long Marianne

Boogie Street

I’m Your Man

Take this Waltz

Democracy

First we Take Manhattan (another great arrangement)

Tower of Song

If it be your will

I tried to leave you

When he sang ‘I Tried to Leave you,’ in the final encore he positioned the audience as the beloved.  Corny? Yes a little, but sweet because we all know this is his “thank you and goodbye” tour for his fans. Tower of Song was also very affecting for this reason.  It was lovely to see him enjoying himself so much.  Although his detractors accuse him of being a miserable old groaner, there was nothing miserable about this gig.  It was warm and humorous.

I was wondering afterwards why I’m so passionate about Leonard Cohen.  I think it has to do with the fact that he’s so engaged with life.  As my friend said, she finds some of his politics reprehensible, but you can’t deny that the man’s thinking deeply about big questions.  I also noticed that we were both singing along to ‘Everybody Knows’ putting our own emphases on the line “the good guys lose.”   Life is hard, it takes a huge amount of courage, we fuck up repeatedly, relationships are never perfect, human communication is relentlessly difficult, and more often than not, the good guys do lose.  But we keep trying and thinking and loving and we get through it all  somehow.

Here he is singing Bird on a Wire in 1979.