Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Ron Sexsmith at the Barbican Centre, London - 30 April

Although I usually make full use of all that London has to offer in terms of fine music and theatre, Saturday was to be my last concert, as there is no more space on the credit cards and I am highly likely to be told on Friday that I’ll be made redundant, which will see me bankrupt and homeless by the end of the year. So it was an important concert to me, not just because of that and the need for some cheering up, but because it was the great Ron Sexsmith. Sadly, I’d been off work for a few days, having hurt my back, and kept having setbacks so hadn’t left the house since Tuesday. In the morning, I couldn’t see how I would make it into town and back. But I was determined, and thanks to some encouragement and to Nurofen with codeine, I made it, and it was so worth it.

An example of Ron’s unassuming nature, his humility and kindness was when he worried aloud that he’d been unable to deliver a cheeky fan’s request for the original handwritten lyric to what Ron called his most romantic song, Tomorrow in Her Eyes, which he’d written for his sweetheart, who I thought (when watching the insightful documentary Love Shines) provided tremendous support for him and indeed was working the merchandise table that night at the Barbican Centre. This fan had asked for the penned lyric to give it to his own love, for whom the song was special, and Ron said he’d searched the house to no avail. So what he had done was copy out the lyrics in his own hand. 'Would that be all right?' He seemed genuinely concerned and listened for the answer, which you can imagine, and Ron leaned out across the first rows of the audience to hand it to said elated fan, who shook his hand, as the woman seated beside him dabbed her tearful eyes and looked luckier than Kate Middleton. I did wonder if Ron had just spoiled a birthday surprise or proposal, until I realised that there was nothing spoilt about having the man himself hand you this stupendous gift.

This was just one incident at the concert that demonstrated Ron’s efforts to please and act genuinely in all he does. No airs of the big star he should be. This man is special. Even if everyone else comes to recognise his supreme talent as a songwriter one day, he will still remain that special as he is a good, pure soul. His fans see that, and there should be more of them. They include Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Ray Davies, Gordon Lightfoot, Emmylou Harris, Feist and Chris Martin of Coldplay. Presumably, as they were apparently in the audience on Saturday, one could add the excellent Nick Lowe (who has covered a Sexsmith song) and Haircut 100’s Nick Heyward.

Whenever I see Ron Sexsmith in concert, I’m reminded that he should also realise how special he is, because he just doesn’t. It’s endearing, but it’s also a bit tragic, particularly when one hears him say in the documentary Love Shines, about the production of his latest album, Long Player Late Bloomer, that he’d seriously been considering giving up singing/songwriting. More absurdities are revealed, like that despite having written an enormous repertoire of truly brilliant songs over 12 albums, he still does his laundry himself at a laundrette, and he couldn’t afford a piano even though he writes on one, so his wife was poignantly moved when someone gave him one for his birthday, thus helping the world, even those who don’t know it yet and still have to discover this buried treasure.

But I’m saying way too much now, considering this is just meant to be a set list, and I’ll write up a proper ‘review’, or a play-by-play account for my website (http://www.aboutlastnight.org.uk/) later. I thought I’d posted the set list when I got home after midnight on Sunday, but something seems to have gone wrong, just as I’d hoped to have written the fuller account by now. That will come, but I must now focus on the busy week at work, particularly as Friday is D-Day, but I’ll be smiling, thanks to Ron, as I do so.

Following the engaging theatre that is a Jim White set, full of amazing tales of Florida near-redneck living, Ron came on with a truly talented band of four musicians, and they played the following in a set that lasted about one hour and 40 minutes:-

1. Heart’s Desire

2. Get in Line

3. The Reason Why

4. Thinking Out Loud

5. Hard Bargain [He said they weren’t going to do this song until they heard that Emmylou Harris had recorded it—indeed named her album after it—and they figured she must know something]

6. Just My Heart Talkin’

7. Believe It When I See It [He apologised for his performance on Later….With Jools Holland this week, sadly his first BBC performance, as he’d been tired and said he did the worst ever version of it….and wish him luck tonight as there were lots of high notes]

8. Wastin’ Time

9. Slow Learner

10. Brandy Alexander [written with (Leslie) Feist about his favourite cocktail]

11. Gold in Them Hills [Ron on the piano, after sheepishly suggesting he barely dared play piano in front of the skilled pianist, Dave Matheson, and claiming the Barbican’s grand piano would help him sound better than he was]

12. Nowadays [He joked that this and the next few songs were ‘far too complex for the rest of the band’ so they left just him and Dave to play them]

13. Tomorrow in Her Eyes [as I said, written for his sweetheart, possibly the most romantic song he’d ever written, now more so after he made an audience member’s night....]

14. Dandelion Wine [because someone had requested it before the show; Ron now on his own]
15. Speaking with the Angel [written for his then baby son, and Ron said the thing he disliked about the Love Shines documentary was the director implied that he and his son were not close, but they were and watched the premiere together]

16. Strawberry Blonde [the band re-joined him for this Ron classic]

17. No Help At All [after which he quipped that rehearsal is overrated]

18. Eye Candy [written after hearing girls in a bar talk about picking up men—‘not me, of course’]

19. Secret Heart

20. All In Good Time

21. Love Shines


22. Galbraith Street [about the street where he grew up, performed on his own]

23. Not About to Lose [band re-joined him here]

24. Every Time I Follow [some people will have missed this as it was 11pm and many of us were scared of missing our last trains…though I stayed, happily.]

It may well be that when I go to write my ‘real’ review, I’ll find when looking at my illegible scribble that I’ve reported something wrong or left out a song, but I believe the above is correct. It was an outstanding show, Ron was in really good voice, and his band was superb. Thank you Ron and Nurofen for the evening, which I will remember long after I endure bankruptcy, and will be happily humming Ron Sexsmith songs in my future cardboard box home on the street!

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