Monday, February 13, 2012
A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF GIGS : WEEK 6 (Part 2); JC GETS CAPTURED LOOKING ON IN AWE
REVIEW : BUTCHER BOY, BERKELEY SUITE, GLASGOW - FRIDAY 10 FEBRUARY
The thing is....I wasn't going to count this as a gig or review it. But I just had to....
This was a performance rather than a gig. It was part of the Glasgow Short Film Festival (GSFF) and offered a chance to hear Butcher Boy providing a live score to Ciné film of family life shot in and around Glasgow from the early 1960's to the mid 1970's. The score comprised new instrumental arrangements of their songs and pieces specially written for the performance to Chick's Day at the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT) a couple of years ago.
I was accompanied on the night by Doug, a golfing buddy and another long-term aficionado of the band. In the pub beforehand (city centre prices - double that of the bar frequented 24 hours earlier pre-Twilight Sad gig) we mused over how well this would work. The GFT event mentioned above had been a bit of a one-off with specially composed music for films and footage followed by a short gig in which the well-known songs were performed in full. This Berkeley Suite event instead was to be existing songs, played as instrumentals, over super-8 films shot by Alexander Ogilvie Spark, father of the Butcher Boy bassist. When we learned that the band were still soundchecking just 15 minutes before the doors opened, our nerves were a little bit on edge. Mine were anyway....Doug kept saying it would be great!!
I got talking to Cat and Maya - the strings section - at the bar beforehand. Cat told me it was going to be an incredible event and that it was the confines of the space that had in the main led to the soundcheck taking so long. Slightly more reassured, I settled down to take it all in.
By the time we had arrived, the 30 or so seats at tables had all been taken, so we had to stand at the bar. This gave us a great view of the screen and most of the band - we could see Alison on keyboards, Findlay on percussion, the two girls on strings and John on acoustic guitar, all to our right of the screen. Basil, Robert and Fraser were to the left and out of our direct vision.
The performance lasted 55 minutes. As promised, it was instrumental versions of Butcher Boy songs....some of which NEVER get played at regular gigs. Some of the songs were slightly expended in length but it was the way the music had been arranged ....how all the instruments were given time and space to be at the forefront at different times....that made this unlike anything else I've ever seen involving Butcher Boy.
The night showed just how talented a set of musicians they are and just how incredibly good a writer John is. Forget his poetic and wonderful lyrics, this was all about the sounds. And they were gold soundz....
However......I am being a wee bit disingenuous. There were times when I got so lost in the footage that I couldn't completely focus on the music.
I can't say this for sure....but the footage really brought home so much of my childhood and upbringing....and I was wiping away tears every now and again as memories of people and places, rarely recalled for years if not decades, came flooding back.
It began with a few minutes footage from the early-mid 60s of the area in Glasgow where I now go to work every day. It's an area that is undergoing a massive physical, social and economic transformation right now....and to see it when it was such a lively thriving place was thrilling. This was followed by scenes of a Christmas party being celebrated in a hall in the community - it looked so much as if my own family were in the footage (they weren't.....we lived not that far away from this particular area but in those days they'd have been at a similar type of party elsewhere - I've used the past tense as I would have been too young to be part of them).
There was footage of the early days of what was then a new housing scheme on the outskirts of the city (again an area I'm very familiar with), of family holidays on Loch Lomond and in Ayrshire (could have been the Clark family one more time!!) and then, after some incredible footage of Robert as an infant strumming a guitar (shades of things to come), it was back to the East End community and footage of kids playing in streets that have long been bulldozed out of existence before ending with footage of Robert, a wee bit older now, going off to school and playing on his bike in the streets of Irvine, the town that his family had relocated to from Glasgow.
All the while, the music fitted the footage perfectly. The shots of Robert's sister tinkling on a toy keyboard were accompanied by Alison playing a lovely solo while Basil/Finlay/Robert/John all plucked their guitar strings at the time when baby Robert was showing off his talents to his dad holding the camera.
And then.....just when it couldn't possibly get any better.....
The film stopped. And a series of stills began to appear from what we had been looking at for the previous 50 minutes. John stood up for the first time and put a microphone into a stand. He said thank you to the organisers for letting the band be part of the festival and to everyone for coming along. He than started to sing...
We dress our children in blue and grey
On Sundays, birthdays and holidays
The most beautiful rendition of Helping Hands closed the performance over the stills.......
The applause was sustained, heartfelt and fully merited.
Two nights in a row.....completely different types of shows....both will live with me forever. It's days and nights like these that make me realise just how lucky I am to live in Glasgow. And to again wonder why a place with something like 600,000 residents has this much talent and genius....
J is For Jamie
I Am The Butcher
The Eighteenth Emergency
Carve A Pattern
Why I Like Babies
The Day Our Voices Broke
Anything Other Than Kind
Every Other Saturday
I Could Be In Love With Anyone
I Know Who You Could Be
Days Like These Will Be The Death Of Me
Some of the footage from the night (but not to the music played...)
mp3 : Butcher Boy - The Eighteenth Emergency
Finally.....click here for some photos from the night. I have to warn you though.....there's an overweight bloke in a red t-shirt caught unawares as he stares intently at the footage....keep the kids away.
JC, Monday 13 February 2012