James Yorkston - Roaring The Gospel @ the Union Chapel
For my money, a venue makes a good and big difference to the quality of a LIVE performance.
I mean, I've seen a legend like The Mad Professor play in the Royal Festival Hall and the sound was awful, dancing didn't make sense and the whole thing didn't fit in any way, shape or form...
So with this being so, I was keen to see just how James Yorkston would work in The Union Chapel?
I mean, to have a church as a musical location was something I was more than familiar with as a child, but this was to be only the second time I'd seen a modern day gig in any kind of religious setting.
So what kind of a church are we talking about?
Well, before going, I imagined The Union Chapel to be a small old one, most likely run by the Mean Fiddler (if ever there was an apt name). I figured it would be mostly gutted and changed and plastered with adverts for Carling and The Fratellis.
But no, the Union Chapel is still a working church and what a building it is!
We're talking a proper big old brick built affair. It's about 50 metres high. There's a gallery upstairs, a back wall full of stained glass. There's a reverent hush. There's no smoking or drinking unless you're in the hall, hidden out back. In short, it's a quite sublime and very different setting.
So how does neo-folk music work in such a place?
Well, the first man on stage, Martin Carthy, appeared to have a compulsive guitar fiddling thing going on. Even between songs he was plucking away and turning and moving and feeling for sound and he knew his stuff...
More than anything else, his one man acoustic show reminded me that it isn't just the Celtic countries that have a strong folk tradition, but also the English. He performed Morris songs that descended form Lincolnshire and Kent rather than Cork and the Isle of Mull and I liked his movement, energy and clear devotion.
By the time James Yorkston came on to a rapturous roar of appreciation, the temporary congregation of The Union Chapel was at it's sold out peak.
The hush descended.
So was this to be a religious experience??
Well, it was the first I've ever seen or heard of James Yorkston other than in small talk and I liked him and his bands sound, but I didn't find his acoustic, soul folk music to be exceptional.
Sure there were some decent moments and some well crafted songs, but i had the impression that though James Yorkston is somehow riding a wave of new cool neo-folk, he's not that vital or brilliant in the general scheme of things.
I mean there are many good musicians and good bands who love their music and can play well and write songs and there was no questioning James Yorkston and the Athletes were all very able and to some degree imaginative in their music, but what they played didn't move or excite me on a personal or spiritual level.
Going on the rapturous reception from the sell out crowd I was however in a pretty weighty minority on this count, so please bear that in mind...
I mean it basically all comes down to opinion and taste doesn't it?