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Eddi Reader with Boo Hewerdine - Union Chapel, Islington on 11 April 2001

I am not certain that I did a review of this concert, possibly because it marked my first day back at work after a three-week illness, and I think I probably returned too soon, spurred on by the desire to see these guys perform.

Until I find my note of the setlist, assuming I took one, or the appropriate file stored somewhere, I thought I would at least post the few photos I took (with slower film than usual, so they are not wonderful) as well as a note I posted shortly afterwards to a Van Morrison discussion list. 

Johnny Scott, the fantastic guitarist from Northern Ireland who was touring with Eddi Reader at the time, used to head up Van's band, playing the role of MC as well as guitarist and terrific backing vocalist--he even often opened shows by taking the lead vocals (such as at Fleadh 99 and Expo Ireland, if I recall correctly).  So although I am a big fan of Boo Hewerdine, who was also playing that night, and drummer Roy Dodds, as well as Eddi herself, this brief commentary has a Van slant owing to the forum to which it was posted, so it does focus a lot on Johnny Scott.

Still, perhaps it is better than nothing until I can improve upon it one day, if possible....

The message:

I saw Johnny Scott playing with Eddi Reader at the Union Chapel in Islington (London) on Wednesday night.  It was my first day back at work after being off ill for some time, and I knew I really didn't need a long day/late night, but I couldn't resist it. Though I often see Eddi and the magnificent Boo Hewerdine who was touring with her, the thought that I would get to see Johnny perform again really motivated me to ensure that I went no matter how weak I felt.

Johnny was brilliant, and I was so pleased that they had him singing backing vocals (with Boo) as well, as he had never sung on Eddi's albums--just provided guitar.  He looked like he was really enjoying himself, and often impressed his fellow musicians when he launched into complicated solos (with ease), and they'd step back and watch in admiration.  I hate the electric guitar generally--at least when it's played noisily or something like the fuzz guitar is used, and detest slide guitar usually, but somehow I always love both when Johnny plays.

During the performance of Eddi's number California, with support act Boston singer/songwriter Eileen Rose joining Eddi on stage to provide backing vocals, Johnny's lap steel (or whatever it's called when on a stand vs a lap) wouldn't work, so he grabbed a normal guitar and improvised (and killed no roadies, so it seemed he hadn't learned much about that from his previous boss).

Afterwards, he whispered to Eddi to let her know that he couldn't provide his usual magic during the lovely song The Girl Who Fell in Love with the Moon.  So she, looking a bit disappointed, pointed to Johnny and announced to the audience that  'his steel's not working.'  Eileen quickly quipped, 'It's okay, it happens to all guys.' Without skipping a beat, Johnny jumped to a mike and explained, 'I've been under a lot of pressure lately.'  Everyone laughed for ages but Eddi jokingly interrupted, saying, 'That's enough! This is a church!' as the Union Chapel--a wonderful, intimate venue with lofty Gothic ceilings--is still a working church when not hosting bands.  Thus we were seated in pews, although most people had beer before them rather than hymn books.

Though the gig was very friendly, quite chummy and informal (yet polished), and Eddi was always thanking the small crew when she name-checked the musicians, I chuckled to myself during one of the later numbers when Johnny kept pointing so deliberately, almost aggressively, to the sound guy off stage, and then gesturing firmly towards his mouth as if he were hungry.  He was frowning and looking so demanding.  I know he meant nothing harsh, but it made me think that I guess he had, after all, learned a bit about dealing with techies from his previous employer!  His high expectations of roadies looked a bit out of place in this rather informal setting, and in front of a pulpit.  I think it baffled the sound engineer as it was a while before he thought to turn up Johnny's mike.

One more funny thing:  Eddi often launched into solo a cappella snippets of numbers that normally had nothing to do with her set, just something she felt like singing while the others tuned guitars and such--Glaswegian drinking songs, Edith Piaf tunes, that sort of thing.  At one point, she started up with the easily recognisable 'Da-da-da-da-da' introduction to Jackie Wilson Said.  Realising the Van connection, she then turned to Johnny and laughed, and he sort of jumped enthusiastically as though he were keen to launch into that song, which of course he was more than qualified to do.  It set Eddi off laughing for a bit, but sadly she abandoned the song, which would have been interesting to hear by those performers.

Since Jools Holland's 17th series of Later...with Jools Holland starts on BBC2 on Friday and Jools and Eddi are friends who have performed together, and Eddi released a great album not too long ago and has now finished her tour--I hold out the hope that she and this great band (Johnny, Tim Harries, Boo Hewerdine and the amazing jazz drummer Roy Dodds) might appear in one of the shows soon.

I remember thinking during the concert that the timing was perfect for Van to take advantage of the fact that Johnny had just finished a tour and was in London a week before Van's Albert Hall gigs. 

Also, Johnny's wife, whose name is pronounced ONya but spelled something like Aine, was backstage at the Union Chapel during the Eddi concert and was rumoured to be possibly joining them onstage, but sadly didn't.  ONya has toured with Brian Kennedy, providing wonderful backing vocals, and the husband/wife team could join Van to provide two great backing vocalists and the return of his fabulous guitarist/MC. They could ring Johnny's bassist brother Nicky to have a reunion with Van, rope in the brilliant Roy Dodds, and we would have a fine Van band of yesteryear and future dreams. Go on, Van, do it! [Needless to say, Van was not joined by any of these musicians at his Albert Hall gigs, nor did Jools invite any of them onto his show this series.  Their mistakes!]

Copyright 2001 by TC. All rights reserved.

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