Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Blue Rose Code Week


A couple of years back I embarked upon King Crimson month: four KC gigs in quick succession, in (probably an over) response to the band announcing their first UK tour in thirty-odd years.  It perhaps veered me slightly into the realms of obsessive anorak behaviour, and I shudder to imagine the miles (and mileage costs) I racked up.  But I did enjoy an enlightening insight into how a band's performances can change from night to night.

The final few dates of the current leg of Blue Rose Code's Water of Leith Tour forded me a similar opportunity to indulge in a markedly less geographically ambitious (although probably equally anorakish) Blue Rose Code Week.  Three gigs (at Perth, Falkland and Falkirk) in a five day spell, was the initial plan.  In the event I could not make the Falkland gig, but still managed to achieve my three in a week.


Victoria Park Hotel, Edinburgh (February 3rd 2018)

I have to own up to stating I am unable to produce any sort of impartial critical appraisal for this gig, for I should not really have been in the room at all.

I had returned from a family skiing holiday to discover Blue Rose Code not only had arranged at short notice a low key “Fan Only” gig in Edinburgh that very evening, but were also going to perform the whole of the The Ballads of Peckham Rye album.  Quite probably my favourite album from anyone over the last five years or so.

The ticketing website brought the depressing “Unavailable” message, and a dip into Gumtree proved equally unfruitful.  So I was driven onto Twitter to pretty much beg for a spare ticket from anybody.  Then Lo, within minutes, up popped Paddy_Hibernian from the Blue Rose Code account with a promise to “Sort Me Out”, if I turned up.  I did wonder if Hibs’ victory at Ibrox earlier that afternoon had put Paddy in particularly generous mood.  But then again, perhaps he is just a really nice guy.  

I did not get the opportunity to find out however, for when I did pitch up, there did not appear to be anyone about remotely interested in checking tickets.  So I just sort of wandered into the performing room.  And as the support act was just about to start up, I decided rather than lose my good spot seeking Paddy out, I would just stay where I was.


One of the pleasing things about a Blue Rose Code gig, is one is never quite sure who one is going to hear perform alongside Ross Wilson.  Wild Lyle Watt is a fair bet, but beyond that, it just appears to be whoever of the seemingly bottomless pool of talented Scottish musicians happen to be available at the time.  This evening, in addition to the Wild One, we got “Mr Steel-Pedal” Iain Sloan and keyboard player Andy Lucas.

From the opening notes of Boscombe Armistice, I mostly just closed my eyes and luxuriated in it all.  For I cannot be cool about this collection: it is a fucking masterpiece.  Ten brutally honest songs charting Ross' descent into alcoholism, the loss of his marriage and his return to Edinburgh via a Bournemouth rehab centre.  

I particularly enjoyed this evening's stripped back arrangement of True Ways of Knowing.  For it just confirmed to me what I have always felt: to whit the clapping and chanting on the studio version just clutters things up unnecessarily.  And all that is required to appreciate Norman MacCaig's beautiful poetry is Ross' peerless voice and a pair of arpeggio plucking guitars.  

The second half of the show, slightly surprisingly, did not lean too heavily on the new album – indeed there were only four songs from it.  


A unexpected treat arrived towards the end of the set in the shape of a brace of Rabbie Burns' tunes.  Of A' The Airts is a song I have heard sung by a number of folks over the years, but generally in that big beefy baritone traditional folk singers often utilise.  Ross' rendition here was a thing of rare fragile beauty – hopefully a recording will pitch up on a release sometime soon.  A Burns EP perhaps.  

The rumbustious Ye Jacobites By Name was new to me, but not the rest of the room it appeared, for the assembled gathering raised the roof with the chorus.  

The same bluesy arrangement of Grateful I had enjoyed at the EH6 Festival last October closed out the the main set, before the lads returned for rousing rendition of John Martyn's Don't Want to Know.

This really had been a special evening, and one which will remain with me I think until the tomb calls.

And in case you are wondering, I did have the good grace to fork out my admission money at the merch staff afterwards.

Edinburgh Set list

Boscombe Armistice
Silent Drums
Where the Westlin' Winds Do Carry Me
True Ways of Knowing
One Day at a Time
The Right to Be Happy
The Light of You
Edina
Oh North
Step Eleven
Whitechapel
Love
Ebb and Flow
Chasing Sunlight
Nashville Blue
Passing Places/Sandaig
Of A’ The Airts
Ye Jacobites by Name
Julie
Grateful

Encore
Don’t Want To Know



Wild Lyle Watt - I am assuming his nickname is ironic.


Iain Sloan



Blue Rose Code - Edinburgh - February 2018


Harry Harris


Perth Theatre (5th February 2018)

In Edinburgh BRC had been supported by the economically named Harry Harris, a handsome chap with a neat line in witty banter and even wittier songs.  His sharply observational compositions put me in mind of Warren Zevon or Randy Newman at times – his topics covering stuff as wide ranging as giants, whales in the Thames, and Hereford United's FA Cup win over Newcastle back in 1972.  That Harry had brought his mum along just endeared him to me even more.

Another youthful talent opened this show at Perth: Beth Malcolm who accompanied herself on keyboards, to her own songs.  I smiled at the injection of a wee swearie into her short, but nevertheless powerful, song written about the plight of the Perth & Kinross food-bank.  And her final composition; a paean to an old flame entitled Ghost Tour was as soul-bearing as it was beautiful. 


This evening was, we learned, the first time this particular hall was to be used for a gig, and it appeared a perfect venue for 200-300 folks to enjoy a concert...especially if one had a seat in the stalls

My seat (purchased late, as ever) was up in the balcony wings, from where I could see most of the stage...just.  But each time Lyle Watt chose to create a little magic, the three teenage girls to my left each craned forward for a gawp, preventing me seeing any of the chap.  I am sure the gist of their interest was musical, but I could not help but wonder if there were little squirts of hormonal activity going on deep inside the young ladies, whenever the dishy young man strutted his stuff.

Saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski replaced Iain Sloan in this evening's line up (I sound like a sports reporter), which gave Ross the opportunity to dust down Polaris and To the Shore.  Which was more than fine by me.  The sax also elevated Bluebell immeasurably.

The Pokesdown Waltz arrangement performed was a new one to me; Ross picking for the most part, rather than being accompanied solely by the piano.  We were again presented with John Martyn's Don't Want to Know as one of two encores, the other being a newbie called (I think) Sunday Morning, or perhaps just Sunday Morn.

Perth Set list

Child
Silent Drums
Ebb and Flow
Chasing Sunlight
Bluebell
Nashville Blue
Passing Places/Sandaig
Pokesdown Waltz
Brave Cedars and Pied Wagtails
Polaris
To The Shore
Of A’ The Airts
Ye Jacobites by Name
Julie
Edina
Grateful

Encores
?Sunday Morn or ?Sunday Morning
Don’t Want to Know




Perth Theatre






Konrad Wiszniewski

Andy Lucas




Blue Rose Code - Perth - February 2018



Falkirk Town Hall (10th February 2018)

The opening act for this evening had been advertised as Roseanne Reid, whom I had seen supporting Tom Hickox a few months back.  I had been keen to hear more of the lady, but a dysfunctional Bing Maps on my phone which insisted on sending us one mile distant to some residential street off Kerse Lane meant Wife and I arrived late at the theatre - just in time to witness the support thanking us all and taking their leave.

I am fairly sure that it was not Roseanne whom we missed; for I don't think Ms. Reid was sporting a beard when I saw her last.  


Looking around the venue as we took up our seats, I can remember thinking “Ross is going to have his work cut out this evening”.

For the Falkirk Town Hall appeared quite the least suitable venue for a gig I have attended for some considerable time.  It looked more like a lofty ceilinged gymnasium than the sort of place one would willingly enter to listen to music.  There was, thankfully, temporary banked seating installed, but which for some stupid reason had been placed what looked a good 30 feet from the stage.  It also did not run the full width of the hall.  


Proceedings opened in a low key fashion with Acquainted with the Night – not one of my favourites, and an odd choice for an opener I thought.  But things picked up, musically speaking, with Silent Drums and Ebb and Flow.  And yet one could almost feel the atmosphere drifting up to the distant ceiling or leaking around the seating to who knows where, as the band toiled to engage.

The first inkling that something was more than just a touch amiss arrived at the conclusion to Passing Places when Lyle Watt's stunning guitar work went unacknowledged by both the Falkirk audience and, even more strangely, by Ross himself.

The second of the Burns' tunes - Ye Jacobites By Name - had had both the Edinburgh and Perth audiences chanting along like dafties at the earlier gigs; but here.......near silence.  Even a committed non joiner-in like myself attempted, albeit modestly and briefly, to lead the throng, but swiftly admitted defeat.  The next tune, Julie, was truncated just before the clappy-bit; Ross clearly not prepared to risk ending up the only one participating in the business.

The set closed with This Is Not a Love Song.  Here we witnessed Ross lay down his guitar and wander off stage before the song's conclusion, to the evident bemusement of his band mates.  Moments after the latter departed, the house lights came up.  No encore tonight, apparently.  

It had been, admittedly, a difficult evening for Ross and the band.  With the patent unsuitability of the venue creating a gulf between performers and audience he had not quite been able to bridge.  But the abrupt end to proceedings, I think, left most of us with the disconcerting notion that a wee Cream Puff had just been thrown by our host.


Falkirk Set list

Acquainted With The Night/Silent Drums
Ebb and Flow
Chasing Sunlight
Bluebell
One Day at a Time
Nashville Blue
Passing Places/Sandaig
Rebecca
?Sunday Morn or ?Sunday Morning
Of A' the Airts
Ye Jacobites By Name
Julie
Edina
Whitechapel
This is Not a Folk Song






Blue Rose Code - Falkirk - February 2018

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