Nanci Griffith with Edwina Hayes
The Sage, Gateshead, Hall 1
February 8th 2010
Interestingly, the first, and last (other than with Hummingbird) time I saw Edwina Hayes perform, was in support of Nanci Griffith, way back when she had not long started out. Thus, it was lovely to see her in a similar scenario, but practically a different person. It was clear from the moment she stepped out on stage that she has grown in confidence, evidenced by her flawless delivery of songs from her new CD, Pour me a Drink. Accompanying herself on her new guitar; her favourite acquisition from her recent trip Stateside,
Edwina opened with the intimate and stirring Leave A Light On For You, before she went on to play Run and Call Me, revealing that the title track from her latest album - Pour Me A Drink – in fact recorded by Nanci on her new CD - had been partially inspired by her dad, about whom, despite this admission, she spoke of with obvious fondness.
Her version of Randy Newman's Feels Like Home, which was featured as part of the soundtrack to the film My Sister’s Keeper; her version of this beautiful song even giving Canadian Chantal Kreviazuk a run for her money.
Other highlights included a touching version of her idol Richard Thompson’s Waltzing's For Dreamers, before which she admitted that she, not unlike like Richard Thompson, then, can't help but write sad songs, mostly concerned with unrequited love. Bend In The Road and Open The Show also left no doubt as to her songwriting capablities.
The other thing about Edwina that shone through during this performance? Her personality. Clearly at ease, Edwina laughed and joked with the audience, as she peppered her set with anecdotes from the road and her life in general. It was apparent from very early on that she had the audience in the palm of her hand, evidenced by the queue of people waiting for CD’s and a chance to say ‘hello.’ Everyone she greeted with the same warmth and humour she had exuded from the stage, which was a pleasure to observe. These people have another thing in common; they have worked out that Edwina Hayes is going places.
Nanci Griffith, looking good as she made a welcome return to The Sage, immediately revealed to a packed Hall 1, the high esteem in which she holds Edwina Hayes, both as a friend and as a peer. Launching straight into her much loved version of John Prine’s Speed of the Sound of Loneliness, demonstrating that despite being a little older, she still has that voice!
Introducing From a Distance, written by her dear friend Julie Gold, she told us that the song has been a blessing. Julie has asked her what was wrong with it and why no one would record it. Nanci assured her nothing, and did, and many have followed suit since, recognising it as one of the greatest anthems for peace ever written, not least in Nanci’s hands.
Reminding us of her more playful side Nanci divulged to us her obsession with soap operas and her dream
To take her tour laundry to the laundrette on Albert Square. This confession was followed by the upbeat Love Conquers All, from the new Cd, afforded great harmony by the band. One of the band co wrote the next song, Across America, a hopeful song documenting the spirit of hope Nanci sees in America since the election of Obama.
Simple Life, we learned, was written with the great Elizabeth Cook about their respective mothers, who Nanci told us are now both drinking whisky in the sky. The question, ‘Where in the world will we shop at Christmas?’ was an obvious reference to Woolworths, and a segue to ‘Love at The Five and Dime,’ which since the demise of Woolworths seemed more nostalgic than just the story of Eddie and Rita.
This trip down memory lane was followed by a few back to back songs from the new album; True Love, reprised from an early CD, One of These Days, and the gorgeous title track, The Loving Kind, preceded by the fascinating story of John and Mildred Loving, the inspiration behind the song. Knowing the story and their legacy, in making it unlawful to prohibit mixed race marriage, undoubtedly makes the song even more pioignant.
Money Changes Everything, penned by Gail Trippsmith, was my least favourite of the night; probably, in fact, of Nanci’s catalogue. Fortunately this was followed by a great version of her tribute to Lorett Lynn, Listen to the Radio, which was also recorded in the 1990s by Kathy Mattea, who also recorded Love at The Five and Dime. The Road to Aberdeen, which she was inspired to sing with being in the UK, was a rare treat, especially sung a capella, so much so that you could have heard a pin drop.
Talking of Kate Wolfe and Rosalie Sorrells, Nanci dedicated a toe tapping version of Ford Econoline, one of my favourite Nanci songs, to ‘...anyone who needs it – the key is in the ignition.’ The final song was Peter Seeger’s The Hammer Song, which gave Nanci and Edwina a chance to have some fun together on stage. Then it was over.
However, Nanci wasn’t leaving The Sage without an encore, so she called Edwina back up on stage to help her out with two cover versions; Buddy Holly's Well Alright, written by The Crickets’ Sonny Curtis, and Rolling Stones hit No Expectations. I have to admit to being a little disappointed though, as whilst one cover song is okay for an encore, I would have much rather heard some of Nanci’s songs with Edwina’s accompaniment; they could even have performed Pour Me a Drink as a duet.
By the end of the night, whilst I was more than glad to have seen Nanci Griffith perform again, especially at The Sage, there was something slightly amiss. I don’t quite know what that was; I suspect a combination of the fact that it was a shorter set, not the best combination of songs, and not a lot of her loved hits. It was a great show and Nanci was in good voice, so maybe it just wasn’t as good as the brilliant show I remembered from last time. That said, when she returns to the North East, I will be straight on the phone for tickets!
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