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Boo Hewerdine - 12 Bar Club, Soho, on 17 July 2002
Here’s the real tragedy of an already challenging day: I had to leave Boo’s gig at the 12 Bar Club on 17 July early, quite early in fact! So you’ll have to look to someone more useful and, you could unjustly say, more loyal to report elsewhere on what, with my luck, will transpire to have been the best part of the evening, if it could actually have improved from its supremely successful state before I departed.
First, let me set the stage, literally. We had been warned that it would be intimate; we had been warned that it would be hot. Well, for those who have not been to the 12-Bar Club, picture what it would be like to have a band with an audience of up to 100 people performing inside your linen cupboard. Then divide that mental image into quarters, and you’ll get close to what the performance area of the club is like, although admittedly there was also a teeny upstairs section to the linen cupboard. As the postage stamp stage was in front of a charred brick wall with a prominent chimney signed with ‘The Forge 1635’, it naturally made one think of a fireplace. In fact, imagine that Boo and the others were performing inside one of those giant fireplaces found in the ancient kitchens of massive castles and country manors—that is a pretty accurate description. Now imagine that there was a fire raging inside that fireplace for several hours (but not harming our adored performers, of course) and that will give you a feel for the temperature inside the club.
So yes, it was intimate—the people near the stage (which was all of us, really, even those against the far wall) were practically in Boo’s lap--but surprisingly un-smoky and a fairly pleasant environment. I imagine if there had not been a dastardly Tube strike tonight, the club would have been more crowded, though I’m not sure where we would have put all of us, particularly after we’d all fainted from heatstroke.
Boo came on at about 9.45pm after a set from Rosalie Deighton. He brought with him an opened CD jewel case as though he needed to read the lyrics for one of his newer songs from the CD booklet, but even though I was one of the many people ‘on his lap’, I didn’t notice him reading from that, particularly as he always plays with his eyes firmly closed.
Boo started kindly shushing the people who were talking in the archway to the bar in the other room, playfully saying that he wouldn’t start playing until absolutely everyone was quiet. He also thanked us for coming, particularly seeing as we couldn’t get home. As some of us were either admiring or being frightened by his long sleeved black shirt, he asked if we liked it, and admitted it was a bit flash. Its apparently velour textured pattern certainly seemed more like formal evening wear or something more at home on Graham Norton than fitting Boo’s typically laid-back style, but it was perfectly suitable for the dark fireplace recess of this club, and he looked rather sharp.
Boo was joined on the teeny weeny stage by the young, talented (and fortunately slim, given the available area) multi-instrumentalist Graham Henderson, who accompanied Boo on piano during the first number, the wonderful Extras. Unfortunately, the piano was initially somehow so incredibly loud compared to Boo’s guitar that it sounded as though Graham were almost playing a different tune, which was totally distracting. Fortunately, this was rectified by the second number, and Boo’s voice is so strong that it effortlessly won the battle to be heard in any case. The acoustics the rest of the night were otherwise fairly admirable, and the car alarms and so forth that were audible outside simply added to the remarkable atmosphere.
Next came the always delightful Murder in the Dark, which would have been perfect were it not for the contribution by a member of the audience of a loud mobile phone ringing mid-song. Boo didn’t falter, and Graham simply laughed and smiled sympathetically at the culprit, who seemed suitably horrified, so we’ll forgive him. Boo commented on the interruption after he’d finished the song, but said that the night before, someone’s fax machine had gone off during the performance, which was much worse. The song was so marvellous despite the added noise that even Boo seemed to appreciate it afterwards, briefly beaming at Graham.
Graham then switched to accordion, as you do, while Boo struck up Patience of Angels. Graham sang backing vocals (the ‘try-y’ part) but Boo got the audience of 60 people or so to join in during the ‘There’s a door’ part, and everyone chimed in on cue, which made Boo go all smiley again. It was lovely to see him seem to be in such good spirits tonight.
Boo then asked opening act Rosalie Deighton to join him on stage—a feat fit for any circus, ladies and gentlemen, three people and several instruments on this widdle-biddy stage all at once. Boo said they would perform a song called Bruised that they made up together, which is on her album, which began with him tuning for half an hour. It almost really did, but that was acceptable because the three were a fine comedy act, even if we didn’t understand everything they meant….Then with Boo on guitar and providing backing vocals that melted beautifully into Rosalie’s, and with Graham still on accordion, they played what I thought was the strongest Rosalie Deighton song I’ve heard. The fact that she was sweltering perhaps added to the sultriness of her voice and delivery, and it all worked wonderfully.
Boo then returned to tuning the guitar for a while and, to fill the time, called out to our listmaster, one of the many people on his lap, to remind him of the amusing story he had told Boo that morning. Steve offered to tell one about Jeff Lynne, but that apparently wasn’t The hilarious one required to do the trick at this time. So Boo just asked us to imagine an amusing story at this point, and I’m sure we all dutifully did. Mine had me in guffaws.
At the end of this episode, during which Graham basically heckled Boo for delaying things, Boo told Rosalie that they would perform the only song of his that she knew, which seemed to offend her slightly, but all was amicable. We were quite pleased that the one she knew was Sweet on the Vine, although after Boo started playing the first few bars, she still was smiling broadly with a ‘I hope I recognise this soon’ look on her face. She did in time, and it was lovely, with Graham adding the final polish with his piano.
Rosalie then left the teeny tiny stage, whilst some kind soul offered Graham what was left of his water, in order to prevent dehydration, fainting, lack of accompaniment etc.
Boo then started playing the lovely Peacetime, which shows his voice off wonderfully without much of a challenge, it seems, whilst Graham switched to bazouki (I think).
Next came a real treat, when Boo asked Graham if they should play the new song they had just written together or play Apple Tree. I’m quite partial to Apple Tree these days and find myself singing it when I least expect it, but certainly welcomed the introduction of new, never failing material, as did the rest of the small audience. Someone shouted out ‘rock ‘n’ roll!’ in support of the riskier option, and Boo said, ‘No, it’s me, remember?’ So I guess he doesn’t see himself as Eddie Van Halen (thank goodness). Having decided to perform the new song, Boo considerately said that, if we did not like it, remember that Graham was partly to blame. When Graham appeared dubious about embarking upon this perilous project, seeming unsure that either of them remembered the new song well enough, Boo tried to reassure him with ‘I remember bits of it.’ That was somehow enough to convince Graham, though still looking unconvinced, to join in on the bazouki whilst Boo busily plucked away at his guitar. Together the two parts made Her Side of the Bed one of those irresistible toe-tapping tunes. The verses were sung somewhat in the style of Joan Armatrading’s (I Love It When You) Call Me Names, and the refrain of ‘I can’t sleep on her side of the bed’ was instantly appealing and quite catchy. What an impressive result of killing time in a Newcastle dressing room. The small crowd was thrilled. Boo decided to give credit where it was due at the end of the song and said, ‘Graham Henderson!’ to encourage (unnecessarily) applause for him, and then added, ‘And ME!’ It strikes me that this reception is clearly indicative of the need for Boo to issue a new album immediately, including this song, Soul, Paper Planes….. I think one release every few months is very modern and wise, don’t you?
Roundabout was Boo’s next number, with Graham on piano and Boo simply sitting, singing into the microphone, having put his guitar down (not because it was the only humane thing to do, you understand). Okay, I give in, I finally like this song. It’s still not my favourite, as it seems to be with the rest of the world. However, it certainly is more moving when backed with piano, which gives it the depth it deserves and makes it come across as less light-hearted, which helps it make more sense to philistines like me. During this song, several of us were panicking because we had to be at Charing Cross station in a matter of minutes, but none of us could bring ourselves to break away whilst Boo stood there belting out Roundabout. It wasn’t for fear of disturbing Boo during a touching few moments either, as someone else chose to do that by letting her mobile phone noisily ring three times. Sigh, modern life, eh? If Boo were Van, he would have shot us a look full of bile, stormed off stage and ended the concert there. Fortunately, Boo is clearly a non-Van model, and Graham simply laughed again. How refreshing that they were so understanding, as I’m sure that the two mobile phone culprits this evening were fairly mortified by their crimes, rather than simply being the inconsiderate types you come across elsewhere. Clearly the people at tonight’s gig were devoted enough to attend despite a total Tube strike and an unscheduled trip to the tropics in the club (which I have to say really didn’t matter, and I’m usually the King of Whingers, as you might know).
So sadly, that’s where we had to make a hasty exit. As I was leaving, Boo told his most hilarious joke yet, based on the laughter coming from the ‘fireplace’—or perhaps Steve remembered the non-Jeff-Lynne amusing story. As we made our way out the front door, into a side alley, I could hear the beginning of Honey Be Good, and as I left, I tried to focus on the Half Full philosophy: at least I got to hear part of a marvellous song that never ages, rather than noticing that I was missing that and the rest of a clearly brilliant evening.
Copyright © 2002 by TC.
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