Jumping Hot Club
February 28th 2013
As there was still a long queue to get into the venue the first song I managed to hear in all its glory was a surprising adaptation of local chanteuse Gem Andrews’ Ladybird which had Nicky Rushton’s crystal clear voice very nearly bettering the original.
It was an absolute pleasure to see musicians actually enjoying being on stage and the banter that introduced a Murder Ballad called Love had me desperate to actually hear the song; and the wait was worth it as the song itself was tremendous.
My favourite song; and the one that had me obtaining their album at the end of the show was Mother Dear; and not just because Gem Andrews joined them on stage (much to my amazement, she’d been sitting next to me!) but the story within the song was very clever, but still accessible and the melody would have brought tears to a glass eye.
This was Folk Music Jim; but not as we know it! The songs were all ‘quirky’ but in a good way and all three women are exceptional musicians with Penny Callow’s cello adding depth to what could easily have been a lighthearted review. If you can have Dinner-Jazz I think I saw the first wave of Dinner-folk tonight.
By the time our MC for the evening; Graham, introduced Mark Eitzel and his band, there wasn’t an empty square foot of space in the whole club with devotees even packing the tiny balcony like sardines.
I have to admit Mark Eitzel and his previous employers, the American Music Club have passed my by; but I was attending on the recommendation of three friends; who’s judgment I trust impeccably.
As the singer walked on stage; the acolytes looked on in awe; while the rest of us stifled sniggers as Eitzel, sporting a flat cap and well worn velvet jacket, resembled Joe Cocker’s unkempt younger brother. Oddly enough Cocker sprang to mind later as the singer appeared to go into spasms as he tried to force some words out, in just the way Sheffield’s finest does. The resemblance ended when Mark Eitzel sang. His voice was simply beautiful. A bit rough around the edges; but beautiful none the less, much in the same way Chet Baker sounded in later life.
The singer started to introduce himself and suddenly became all bashful; so he just opened the set with a staggering song called What Holds The World Together; and I was won over.
This song was followed by Mission Rock Resort which was written about and for some friends of his, and may or may not be about heroin addiction; to say I was impressed would be a huge understatement.
Already, I couldn’t take my eyes off the charismatic singer as he considered every word that he voiced and it was obvious that he fervently believed in everything he sang about and wanted the audience to believe too.
The band were playing without a setlist and the songs apparently came from all corners of his career; past and present and the band never faltered once; even the drummer who was playing with one arm in a sling following an accident the previous day; never missed a beat.
As the evening flew by I scribbled down notes like a war correspondent but when Eitzel really gets into a song you can’t always make out the lyrics as his voice becomes an instrument in its right and; I guess that is part of his charm.
The longer the concert went on the more Eitzel relaxed and the more he relaxed the longer and more surreal his song introductions became; but the crowd hung on his every word.
Oh Mercy from his latest album DON’T BE A STRANGER bordered on being brilliant, as the arrangements sounded ever so simple but were actually incredibly intricate and complimented Eitzel’s vulnerable and intense delivery just perfectly.
The set ended with the beautiful From Now On; during which you could have heard a pin drop as the minimal guitar, shimmering cymbals, gentle piano and bowed double-bass combined to shadow the singer on his piece de resistance and the roar of approval at the end was well merited.
The band merely hopped off stage before jumping back on for another two songs that ended with Western Sky which very nearly had a couple of people in tears.
Even now I’m still staggered at Mark Eitzel’s performance tonight; and that’s as good a word as any to describe it. The concert wasn’t always easy on the senses but will probably be in my Top 10 gigs of 2013 come December.