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Boo Hewerdine - The Borderline, Soho - 25 September 2001
After a sublime set by the
great guitarist Colin Reid, with lots of humorous Belfast
banter that I've not had the pleasure of hearing before (he's usually just
the silent man in black), he and his 'string section' left the stage, with
Colin returning five minutes later with Boo's massive (compared to his own)
guitar (what did you think I was going to say?) and left it on the stage for
him. So Colin was doubling as a roadie, though he looked more like a
bouncer with his newly shorn head, which was the subject of much discussion
and booed vociferously by a friend in the audience who clearly prefers furrier mammals.
So, in comparison, Boo looked positively hairy when he took to the tiny stage of the basement club at 9.45pm, although his own hair was cropped short, but at least present and accounted for. He was unusually wearing a black shirt, perhaps inspired by the Johnny Cash look of Colin, and apparently bothered by the presumably tight cuffs, which he left unbuttoned. On taking the stage, Boo understated, 'That Colin Reid's quite good at guitar, inne?' Someone in
the audience commented, perhaps in an effort to reassure him, that Boo had
more hair than Colin though. Boo thought about that but then wisely concluded that there was more to it than hair. No doubt he was referring to the recent
conclusive scientific study that compared the talent of Z Z Top with
Australia's Midnight Oil.
Boo launched into The Border as his first number, a lovely song that seemed
to be about indecisiveness that gave him plenty of opportunity to howl--not
in the literal sense as Eddi Reader does whilst performing Wolves live, but in a moving sense. The sound in the small club, filled with about 80 fully attentive (minus two, which I shall explain later) Boo-fan bodies (spanning an astonishing range of ages, though no toddlers), was hardly perfect, but clear enough so you could melt at the sound of Boo's wonderful full voice and feel the base notes of his guitar bounce internally throughout your system.
He introduced the next song as being one that Eddi sings, which reminded me of when Eddi, at the Cambridge Folk Festival last year claimed complete ownership of Footsteps Fall by acting astonished when people requested it, since her new album, containing that song, had not yet been released, so how did we know of it--when the request was for Boo to sing a song he had released long before. Now here was Boo handing this song over to her, in a sense, when most of us surely think of it as a Boo song, although I suppose she did release it first. No matter, it was lovely that he was planning to perform Bell, Book and Candle. Boo muttered that Eddi had said she would be coming that night, but had abandoned him, and put on a puppy dog look that got sympathy from the audience that was just as convincing as his assertion that Eddi should have been there. Talented as Eddi Reader is, I doubt anyone at the Borderline last night would have wanted her to spoil a truly stupendous solo performance that managed to exorcise that song from my brain most pleasantly, as I had been humming it for the two days before the concert, for some reason. Even Boo looked overwhelmed by the beauty of his own delivery, and justifiably, as he sat back and slumped in his chair when he finished.
That was almost the last time I saw Boo, other than the odd glimpse of his
nose here and one of his ears there....We were just a few feet from the
stage, with only one layer of people in front of us, but unfortunately the
two people sitting side by side in front of us were the most loverly cuddly
adorable Care Bears in the land. Or they struck me more as a pair of
genuine lovebirds, you know like in the Hitchcock film? Not Psycho, though that film was weighing heavily on my mind at the time, but The Birds.
no doubt were enjoying the concert but were enjoying each other so much
more, and had to lean into each other every 26 seconds (we timed it) to
whisper as much into the other's ear--have many extensive chats, in fact--to
fondle the other's head, to rub the other's back and other
unspeakables--none of my business, I know, but when it's done inches in
front of your face and blocks the tiny opening of space through which
you had happily been watching Boo, it grows a bit irksome, not to mention,
we all agreed, incredibly nauseating. It also forced several of us into
some sideways headbanging, to the undefined rhythm of the Care Bears'
choosing, as we tried desperately to see something other than them;
apologies to those behind us who also had to dance the funky chicken in this
manner. I suppose the phrase 'get a room' would be redundant in this case
as the Borderline is not much bigger than a large bedroom, but the wuvverly
cuddly ducklings in matching shirts and attached to each other at various
points really should have volunteered to move to the back row of a cinema,
since they clearly were not bothered about watching Boo, just each other,
and they could have done that elsewhere. NOT THAT I'M BITTER. Just rude, I
know. If you very sweet and adorable people are reading this now, apologies
for this rant, but I'm afraid that several people behind you really disliked you
last night and, frankly, it was all we could do not to vomit. No doubt we
all are, of course, deeply ashamed for our evil thoughts today (and that is
not the Royal We, I am just presumptuously speaking for others), as you
clearly are just so sweet and cuddly, you adorable Care Bears, you.
Awwwwwwww. Congratulations on the happiness you have found; you deserve it
since you have such excellent taste in music.
It occurred to me that it would have been really fitting if Boo sang Footsteps Fall next (although it would have applied at any time during the night), and funnily enough, he did, after introducing it concisely by saying 'this is about hearing people shag through a wall--thank you.' His performance of the wonderful song was powerful, truly grand, and oddly set to psychedelic swirls of coloured lights on the walls behind the stage, which were persistent throughout the whole concert (well, he does sound a lot like the Psychedelic Furs, doesn't he?). Boo's boisterous delivery included many Eddi-type fill-ins à la 'Hey, la-la' at the end, but they seemed more fitting without the swimming hand movements characteristic of our lovely Ms Reader.
Before he had begun the masterful performance of that song, Boo told a story that ended with the moral 'Never mumble in a cake shop.' I should just leave you all with that thought for the day, but I suppose for the curious of you who have not yet heard the story, I should explain that Boo owned up to being a terrible mumbler (and yes he is!) and told us of an errand to buy a birthday cake for his young daughter Holly. When he got home, he opened the box to find that the icing on the cake said 'Happy birthday, Colin!' Hearing this story, my thoughts turned to Boo's fabulous new Extras EP that a friend kindly bought me at Friday's Claygate gig (and you really MUST buy this if you haven't yet!!). The friend got Boo to sign it, which is always a nice touch. Trouble is, Boo misheard who it was for and signed it for a completely different name than mine, and a male one, at that. Still, could come in handy should I ever decide to have a sex change; that could help me decide which name to choose. So the moral of my story: Never mumble in a post-gig shop.
Boo, you see, kept referring to his and Colin's selling of their CDs by the side of the stage afterwards as 'pretending to be a shop.' And a most successful shop they were, too. Boo rightfully plugged his EP several times during the show but also kindly plugged Colin's latest CD (which is masterful--do buy it! It also has Eddi singing a fun Fleetwood Mac cover on it)-which he highly recommended particularly the great track that he (Boo) sang on.
He then performed Please Don't Ask Me To Dance--fortunately not introduced as an Eddi song--so superbly, so brilliantly clearly despite the slightly harsh sound system, that the room loosely packed with people appeared to just melt away into satisfied sighs (I would have said 'a sea of satisfied sighs' but that would have been as nauseating as the Care Bears, although true). Even Boo appeared to be relaxing now and full of unusual but deserved confidence (and I'm sure that wasn't owing to any liquid assistance, surely not!)
Boo then called out, 'Rosalie Deighton, are you here?' I might be spelling her name wrong; but she opened for Boo at the Jazz Café a couple of years ago (or so), and he produced her album that has taken an age to get out but apparently is on its way. She sings wonderful harmony on the first song on Boo's fine Extras EP, Sweet on the Vine. She wasn't there, though, so someone else answered in her place. Boo jokingly said, 'well, you'll do,' and suggested (insincerely) that someone join him on stage to sing Rosalie's part. A look of longing filled the eyes of most of the members of the audience, but they remained in their places, their big chance missed, and the second mike standing at singer-height on the stage remained unused. The
song is gorgeous, although it really is amazing with the harmonies that we missed last night, and contains a lot of glorious guitar trickling along to a beautiful tune with Boo's now exceptional vocals. When he finished, Boo plugged the EP again but, somewhat disappointingly, said that he'd just decided not to do another song from the EP. Still, it was refreshing to see someone just play for pleasure rather than being focussed on promoting a CD, and since we loved every single thing he played, we really did not mind; most of us can go home and play the other three fabulous songs later (and if
you're not one who can, do buy the EP! Honestly, you will be sorry to miss these new songs).
With a new approach to the next song, Boo decided that, rather than telling the usual story about k d Lang falling off a stool and leaving the stage right before he was meant to join her to perform with her the song he'd written, Last Cigarette, he would just on this occasion say 'this is the k d Lang falling-off-the-stool song.' Everyone laughed; there didn't seem to be a baffled look in the house. He had a false start first, then said 'tragically, I've forgotten how to tune the guitar,' and then explained that he felt nervous about playing the song without telling the story first. Bless him. He then asked if his friend George was in the audience, and found that, like Eddi and Rosalie, George had not come either, so he joked that the next song would be from his new album called 'Billy No-Mates' (he meant friends, didn't he?) The song was stunning, as always, although he was on such amazing form that night that the whole gig was one of the best performances I have seen--though apparently could not top Friday's Claygate concert, so we must be thankful that that has been preserved for posterity and is available to lucky us. Apart from all the glorious sound, Boo's left ear and right shoulder looked quite good as well, to one shaking one's head from side to side in an attempt to see him during cuddles while looking like someone dancing to Devo.
Next, Boo treated us to the amazing Paper Planes, a favourite of everyone who has seen him perform it for the past couple of years (mind you, I have no sense of time, so maybe it's only five minutes old). He said that we couldn't buy it in his and Colin's shop later, but it would be on the forthcoming album that he would finish after this tour. Fingers crossed, because it truly is an amazing composition. It starts with lovely bright trickly guitar like Murder in the Dark and becomes pure beauty itself, with wonderful lyrics. I haven't heard this one for a while and like it so much more now. This must be the The Birds Are Leaving of the new album, although based on Extras, there clearly will be tough competition for that winning role.
The next song, Boo said, he wrote with his friend Clive Gregson (also noticeably absent....although when a cheer came up for Clive, Boo reassured himself with 'well, at least Clive is here!') for his second solo album Baptist Hospital, which he said would be re-released later this year with extra tracks. He played the absolutely gorgeous World's End absolutely gorgeously. Even without the female harmonies, it was glorious; Boo's vocals really were on top form as they infiltrated the club and echoed
within every individual's insides. I could actually feel the tones in my heart, and it wasn't because the volume was too loud.
Since I am clearly not beyond digression, I should digress slightly here to note that, being American and a soppy one at that, I thought last week that I would put together an MD compilation (I listen to one on the train every day) full of comforting and somewhat relevant songs in light of the hideous and surreal recent tragic events. I haven't put it together yet (and might
wait 'til too late) as I keep remembering additional songs that would be appropriate and I don't want to leave anything out, but I have mapped out my plans, and World's End is the second song on there. You might think that odd. Also, I shall probably put Boo's Different God, with the chorus 'But that's a different God than my God,' which seems appropriate, as performed
by Brian Kennedy (who has a new single out in Ireland now, with a new album of Boo-scribed songs due soon.) I doubt if anyone is still reading this lengthy verbosity at this stage, but if you are, I'd be interested in hearing your suggestions as to what other Boo or Bible songs might be appropriate.
Returning to the brilliant concert and happiness again, I had heard people say incredulously that Boo had actually refrained from playing 59 Yards at Friday's momentous gig. So when someone actually requested it last night--and it was the only request called out all evening--some of us were surprised and almost disappointed, as it was wonderful hearing some of his
brilliant new material which, after all, we can only hear at gigs (unless you're the Roving Recorder Patrick, and thank goodness for him). Fortunately I guess, Boo ignored the request at that stage and said that instead, he was going to sing his favourite on Eddi's last album. This song, Soul, as he called it, though Eddi called it 'I Felt A Soul Move Through Me' on her album, was my favourite during the last tour when I saw Boo play a few times--I seem to recall loving it at Bromley. Everyone was
raving about Roundabout, which didn't win me over somehow, and I just really adored Soul. Hence I was thrilled to be able to hear it again when I got Eddi's album, but that version just wasn't enough for me somehow, it just doesn't have the fine
timbre of Boo's voice and his stronger interpretation. Hearing him play it again last night was amazing, truly rewarding, and I can only hope that because he is fond of the song, he will put that on his next album. I really need to hear it more often than I can, and performed in Boo's style! Again, Boo added a lot of ad-libbing, booming out 'yay-hey-hey-haaaaaay' at a volume that hurt my ears in the most pleasant way, then abruptly dropping the volume for the tender chorus. Masterful.
Boo then introduced another song from Eddi's last album that he said he thought he might do himself. He pointed out that people always joined in when Eddi sang it, so he would see what might happen. He played a clear and bright version of Lucky Penny, wonderful to hear, and since they had been 'subtly' prompted, the audience weakly added the 'la-las' of the refrain.
Boo, at the end, pronounced the sing-a-long as 'reasonably impressive.' If we had been a football game audience, he said, it would have counted only as a Mexican Nod.
After teaching us twice about our responsibilities in the workings of encores, he superficially said 'well, goodnight' before his 'last' song and then offered an aside of 'you know what to do, and stuff.' He hinted that he rather hoped to see some crowd-surfing, but clearly he hadn't seen the notice posted at the door by the box office saying that crowd-surfing (and
probably sideways head-banging, but not cuddling) was forbidden, which was of course the only thing preventing us from doing that and then rushing the stage. He treated us to Murder in the Dark, which I don't remember hearing
live other than at Borders just up the road from where we were, but my friend who was at both performances implied that I was typically forgetting everything and getting mixed up. I do love the song, though, and it was terrific to hear it live, particularly as Boo performed it so passionately (based on what I could not see through Cuddles and FluffyBunny's clinch but managed to hear through their persistent gooey giggling). Boo's voice was booming tremendously, and he even added the 'Love Hurts' bit at the end, a slightly different tune from that performed by Loudon Wainwright's daughter on the album. It was absolutely sublime.
Boo then left the stage at 10.35, clearly finished for the evening, but the enthusiastic (and well-taught) cheers brought him back after a long, long wait, so at 10.36 no-hair Colin Reid joined no-mates Boo on the stage. They had an extremely quiet and civil chat as to what they might play, changed their mind a few times, and then came to a decision, and then Boo announced that what we had just witnessed was a terrible row between them. He said that, since someone had shouted for it earlier, they would play 59 Yards and, perhaps sensing a hesitancy since people sometimes kid that he won't
leave home without that security song, he added 'but in C-Sharp.' It wasn't quite, but I have to say that it was a pounding, rowdy, amazing, foot-stomping, HUGE rendition, like nothing I have ever heard before. I could hear it done that way, well, 59 times, or 59 times that. It was breathtaking. People were dancing for the first time, Colin was laughing with delight, everyone was engrossed and even the CuddlyWuvverlies were rubbing each other's backs to the rhythm of the beat. The connection cable fell out of--I think--Boo's mike (it might have been his guitar but I'm sure that I heard that playing still, though Colin's guitar playing can easily deceptively sound like five guitars, so I'm not sure, thanks to my CareBear
vision), and as he bent to pick it up off the floor and re-attach it, the audience helped him out by filling in for him and singing that verse of the song. Having fixed it, Boo growled out some words ferociously before jumping to a higher Michael Jackson voice (but without the freakishness) on occasion. It really was magnificence itself. Even the bar staff behind me,
who did not seem to know who Boo was but sure do now, said 'Wow. That was quite good!' which I understand is quite significantly enthusiastic in bar staff speak.
After discussing calmly what they should play next, and it would be a trying task to find something to top that, Boo announced the result of their second 'row' and, after giving more instructions to the unseen sound person about 'feedback on the bottom there' and then hurriedly explaining to us 'that's my guitar, by the way!', he played the only song that could top that last number: The Birds Are Leaving. With Colin adding his incredible talent on guitar, whilst holding his pick in his mouth, which always worries me in case he chokes on it (and I'm not even a mother), this was again a record-breaking performance, astoundingly gorgeous. Deceptively simple with uncannily clear vocals ringing out, it had the audience captivated.
Finally, after reminding us that he would be playing with Jane Siberry at the South Bank Centre on Friday and he and Colin would be joining Eddi at the Shepherd's Bush Empire at the end of her tour, Boo came to his last song. Of course, we'd had 59 Yards so it was now time for 16 Miles. A great song, appropriate to hear the line ringing out about not wanting to go home from a London that was so beautiful at night, and I could only fault it by the fact that it got in the way of the CareBears' intense conversation, which I thought was really thoughtless and rude of Boo and Colin. They should have been more considerate and stopped playing and waited until our adorable friends were done talking. Nevertheless, Boo tried to conduct the audience so that they could fill in for Rob or Clive (Colin does not sing), adding the brilliant 'na na na hey heys'--wait, that's Bananarama, but you know what I mean--but we frankly were a serious disappointment. We tried but when he tried to get us to sing one part while he sang another, we all decided to join him on his part instead. So I don't think we passed the
audition and I doubt we'll be hired as Rob or Clive's replacements, so no doubt they'll sleep easy tonight.
After an astonishing performance of 13 songs that variously had people swooning, dancing and actually in tears, Boo finished it moments before 11pm, when he opened the BooCo shop (catchy, huh? Like ASDA....), which appeared to do marvellous business and had a lengthy queue of converts. It was sort of odd to see these two incredible performers now acting like
check-out girls, counting out change for people and handing them products, but it was all part of the awesome experience.
Well, after all that rambling, even I'm bored with my account (though not with the memory of the evening). So congratulations to anyone who has actually read through all that to reach here, and have a Merry Christmas.
Copyright © 2001 by TC.
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