Friday, May 25, 2012


Despite the tropical weather earlier the Deaf Institute is quite cool tonight. It’s also a little sparse of audience members as Seamus Fogarty takes to the stage. It’s a shame more weren’t tempted indoors sooner because they missed a treat. I was intrigued to hear how the songs from “God Damn You Mountain” would sound live stripped of the field recordings and unusual, unidentifiable accompaniments on record. Performing seated with just unvarnished acoustic guitar and harmonica, some of songs were uncomplicated folk airs, some were toe-tapping bar-room pleasers like the non-album song from his days playing Chicago bars (“mainly Johnny Cash and Rory Gallagher covers”) and then others like final song ‘The Wind’ captured that haunting, meditative simplicity of his debut album.

He cut an amiable and garrulous figure on the bare stage, cursing himself for overlong tune-ups but also providing some sublime and seductive moments. By the end of his set the Music Hall felt much busier and it was good to see that afterwards large swathes of people were coughing up cash for a copy of that highly recommended album.

I always waiver between whether I prefer seeing James Yorkston solo or with band. I say waiver but probably come down on the side of solo. But playing "Moving Up Country" on its tenth anniversary re-release – surely this dictated a full band? (as in the upcoming shows in Edinburgh and London)? The first ten songs of tonight’s set were a chronological rendition of that 2002 album but that doesn’t do justice to the unfolding journey therein. Just with guitar and harmonica, these slowed down versions of the songs captured their raw emotions but with an added graceful immediacy. I’ve never seen or heard a more engaged audience than the early part of this set. And this was before the emotional journey spread out into the between-song chat. This included farcical tales of stained sheets in B&Bs and punching people on trains, condemnation of David Cameron (“he’s a cunt”) and then joyfully celebrating the imminent conclusion of his three year old daughter’s chemotherapy treatment. These tour tales and deeply personal moments mingled in with the witty asides of ‘Cheating The Game’ or the tense, quivering seven minutes of final album song ‘I Know My Love’.

Seamlessly the set continued – ‘Temptation’ as requested from the crowd, three new songs from this August’s new album "I Was A Cat In A Book" and two more older songs. The emotional swings of the first half of the set continued: the heart-breakingly raw ‘The Fire And The Flame’ about his daughter’s illness drew tears from the singer and left the crowd devastated (no over-statement) but was then followed by a surreal and improvised musical tirade against Bob Dylan, Status Quo and other ropey parts of his older brother’s record collection. This led into an unlikely, unplanned and none-too-serious cover of Motorhead’s ‘The Ace Of Spades’ which then fed into a beautiful rendition of ‘Someplace Simple’.

The emotional depth and range of the evening was beyond compare – from bonhomie and comic asides to raw vulnerability between just two songs was astonishing. I’ve seen James Yorkston many times before but tonight’s gig was one of the best. He’s clearly been through hell but thank God he can still laugh and joke and bawl and cry about it and share these moments. Truly entrancing.

The Set List

In Your Hands
St Patrick
Sweet Jesus
Tender To The Blues
Moving Up Country, Roaring The Gospel
Cheating The Game
I Spy Dogs
6.30 Is Just Way Too Early
Patience Song
I Know My Love
‘Lately I’ve Found I’ve Struggled’
‘The Fire And The Flame’
‘Bob Dylan and Status Quo diss’
Ace Of Spades
Someplace Simple
Steady As She Goes

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