The smell of gloss paint and new carpet still hung in the air of the newly restored Portland Hotel in downtown Ashington, Northumberland as Bap Kennedy took to the small stage alongside his young wife Brenda and guitar virtuoso Gordy McAllister.
Everyone surrounding the hastily arranged gig appeared to be living on their nerves until the trio launched into the gentle Country Swing tune, Be Careful What You Wish For and the cheer of recognition from the hundred strong audience must have been a welcome relief to all concerned.
I last saw Bap Kennedy in London at the launch the excellent SAILORS REVENGE album earlier in the year and the intervening months playing the new songs and the subsequent telling and re-telling of his stories in-between songs have given the charming singer-songwriter a rekindled confidence that was strangely missing that night.
Tonight’s concert was split into two halves and I was pleased to hear Bap mixing new stuff with an assortment of songs from across his varied solo career; with each one appearing to mean something special to someone somewhere in the room and the whoop of delight from one woman when he introduced Long Time a’ Coming had the room in fits of giggles which set the tone for a relaxed evening.
Of the older songs Howl On and Domestic Blues both gave Gordy the opportunity to shine on the guitar but also reminded me how great some songs can actually be when you hear them played live.
It was only after four or five songs; when the band played Hank William’s Rambling Man that it dawned on me what great acoustics the room has. Kennedy doesn’t have the loudest of voices but you could hear every nuance in his delivery and Brenda’s lilting harmonies subtle bass playing coupled with McAllister’s intricate guitar playing were all making for a very special evening.
Shimnavale from the new album was simply beautiful tonight with the three musicians combining to make it sound even better than on record and the look on the faces of the women in my eye line when Bap smiled at his wife as he sang That’s the Beauty of You reminded me what a powerful force music can be.
The evening had already been a resounding success but when Bap’s eyes twinkled as he casually mentioned that he’d been in a band many years ago called Energy Orchard, the atmosphere suddenly became electric and as he and Gordy played the opening bars to Sailortown the biggest cheer of the night nearly took the roof off!
This was followed by a pastiche of Hendrix’s Hey Joe but done in the style of Johnny Cash; which was the perfect ending to a very memorable evening.
PHOTOS – www.harrisonaphotos.co.uk