The Boogaloo, Highgate, London
6th March 2012
As Bap Kennedy’s UK Tour only consisted of 5 dates; which were all South of the M6 it meant that I had to crack out the Safari gear and venture 300 miles to the mean streets of North London if I was to see him play live for the first time in too many years.
Wearing a trilby at a jaunty angle and being tall, skinny and possessing a voice like a young Tom Waits, the young Texan Jarrod Dickenson cuts an odd looking figure on the stage but his songs are all extremely well crafted with melodies many of his peers would give their left arm for; but it’s his world weary voice and phrasing that will win him legions of admirers in the very near future.
California; about the haunting memories of an ex-love was simply breathtaking and Ballad of a Lonesome Traveler will resonate with musicians and traveling salesmen everywhere. Jarrod Dickenson – a name to watch out for.
For those who don’t know him Bap Kennedy has been treading the boards for 20 plus years and should be headlining the Albert Hall not a pub in North London; but that’s only a minor gripe that can still be put right when the public cottons on to what a great singer-songwriter he is.
The evening got off to a swinging start with an old song dedicated to and written about Elvis – Be Careful What You Wish For then Domestic Blues which Bap reminded us had been the theme to a BBC R4 comedy programme.
With a new album to promote Kennedy kept the latest sings to a minimum although when he did play Please Return to Jesus and Jimmy Sanchez they both had an extra ‘kick’ to them that can only come from being played live.
Much of the rest of the night was a celebration of his work with Vampire and Howl On reminding me what a genuinely great songwriter he is.
Thoroughly enjoying himself on a stage that was surrounded by friends, Bap regaled us with a couple of bad jokes and some endearing stories, especially the one that introduced Moonlight Kiss which was featured in the hit movie Serendipityand the song itself was better than beautiful.
Bearing in mind how much I enjoyed everything else, the two absolute highlights of the evening were when the hastily put together band; that included Gordy McAllister (nearly stealing the show) on semi-acoustic guitar and an impossibly pretty and young looking Mrs. Brenda Kennedy on bass rocked out on Hank’s Rambling Man and turned the bar into a Nashville Honky-tonk for 4 minutes and the look on Bap’s face as he dedicated The Beauty of You to his wife, Brenda who was standing right next to him. Now that’s what a love song is for!
The evening ended with a comical ‘will they/won’t they’ do another encore that hastily followed a discussion about which songs they all knew! The choice was the Energy Orchard standard Sailortown about Kennedy’s home town of Belfast and a more fitting end to a great night I couldn’t think of.